AMERICAN officials are investigating reports that Islamic
terrorists have smuggled Stinger ground-to-air missiles into the
United States from Pakistan.
Senior Iranian sources close to the fundamentalist regime in
Tehran claimed this weekend that TWA flight 800 was shot down
last month by one of three shoulder-fired Stingers of the type
used by Islamic guerrillas during the Afghanistan war.
The sources said the missiles arrived in America seven months
ago after being shipped from Karachi via Rotterdam and on to the
Canadian port of Halifax. They claimed an Egyptian
fundamentalist group backed by Iran was responsible for
smuggling the weapons across the Canadian border into the United
The group, the Gama'a al-Islamiya, comprises followers of
Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric jailed in the
United States over the 1993 New York World Trade Centre bombing.
It has been waging a war to overthrow the government of
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and has been held responsible
for a number of attacks on tourists since 1992, including the
murder of 17 Europeans last April.
A senior White House official responsible for
counter-terrorism told The Sunday Times this weekend that he had
seen a report that a Stinger missile had been smuggled into the
United States from Pakistan. The official, who is involved in
collating intelligence relating to the TWA inquiry for the White
House, said investigators were aware of reports that Stingers
may have been smuggled into the country.
"It is plausible," he said. "We have not come
to any final conclusions. If a Stinger was the cause of this,
our first theory would be that it came from Afghanistan."
According to the Iranian report, the Stingers smuggled into
America were bought by Iran from Afghan guerrillas. However, the
American official emphasised that the possibility that a missile
had destroyed the TWA jet was not the administration's leading
The FBI confirmed last week that traces of explosive had been
found on debris linked to the inside of the jet, indicating that
an explosive device had detonated in the passenger cabin. But
investigators have insufficient evidence to determine whether
the device was a bomb or a missile warhead.
The official was commenting on reports from Tehran that
claimed several groups funded by the religious authorities in
Iran are active in the United States. The reports claim one
previously unknown underground group called Falakh may have as
many as 50 highly trained terrorists in the country.
The missile theory, although not ruled out, has been treated
sceptically by many investigators who are convinced that a
terrorist bomb smuggled on to the jet caused the crash which
destroyed the Boeing 747, killing all 230 people on board.
A computer simulation by the US army concluded it was a
"possibility", but not likely, that a Stinger fired
from a boat could have reached the plane.
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