Hakoah bombing mystery re-opens
The Sunday Telegraph
August 25, 2012 6:11PM
NSW Police have launched a fresh inquiry into two unsolved terrorist attacks in Sydney almost 30 years ago, identifying one of the world's most wanted extremists as the prime suspect.
Counter-terrorism detectives have reopened their investigation into the bombings of the Israeli Consulate and Hakoah Club on December 23, 1982. The investigation - known as Operation
Forbearance - led detectives to Terre Haute, Indiana, in May to interview terrorist Mohammed Rashid in jail.
The 65-year-old - jailed over the 1982 bombing of a Pan Am flight - was a senior member of the pro-Palestinian terror group known as 15 May.
Police believe he is an architect of the Sydney attacks, along with his mentor, 15 May leader and master bomb-maker, Abu Ibrahim, who is now wanted by NSW Police.
"(Ibrahim) is a significant person of interest to this investigation," a senior police source said.
The explosions happened within four hours of each other. The first was detonated at 2pm inside the stairwell of Westfield Towers on William St in the CBD, which housed the Israeli Consulate. The second happened at 6.45pm inside the Hakoah Club, a Jewish soccer and social club, in Hall St, Bondi Beach.
No one was killed in either attack, but 76-year-old Clara Lowy, who worked as a tea lady at the consulate, was seriously injured. Within two months, Sydney man Mohammed Ali Beydoun was charged over the Hakoah bombing.
The Lebanese-Australian citizen, then 32, had no criminal record and worked as a mail sorter at Sydney Airport. Detectives linked Beydoun to the blast through the Valiant - its number plates belonged to his sister, who had reported her car stolen days earlier.
The Valiant's salesman provided detectives with facial reconstructions of the two men who purchased the vehicle. Beydoun was identified as one of the buyers. The other man remains unknown and police are trying to track both.
Beydoun always denied any involvement and on August 3, 1984 his charge of being an accessory before the fact was thrown out by the Attorney-General because of insufficient evidence. The investigation then went cold. However, police always suspected international terrorism. Both explosions used a sophisticated timing mechanism known as an "E-cell" and other bomb signatures that pointed to 15 May.
Ibrahim, 76, whose real name is Husayn Muhammad Al-Umari, was added to the FBI's Most Wanted List in 2009 after intelligence linked him to a hideout in Lebanon.
There is a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. Another person of interest to the case is former 15 May member Adnan Awad, who turned himself in to authorities during the 1980s. He now lives in hiding under an assumed identity.
The investigation into the Sydney attacks lay dormant until February 2011, when counter-terror investigator, Detective Inspector Caroline O'Hare, re-examined the case.
The Sunday Telegraph has been aware of the developments since last year but, at the request of NSW Police, agreed not to print any details until tonight.
"During the '80s, it was taken as far as it could be," a police source said. "We have a range of suspects ... there could be domestic and international arrest warrants issued."
In the past 18 months, up to 20 detectives have been tracking historical files and photographs of the two crime scenes.
Rashid, now 65, is serving out the remainder of his sentence over the 1982 bombing of Pan Am flight 830 over Honolulu which killed one person and wounded 15 others.
He received a lenient sentence for co-operating with the FBI and will be released on March 20 next year to face immediate deportation from the US.