The report today that Abu Aghila Mohammad Masud has been finally handed over to US authorities, two years after Washington announced their charges against him, has catapulted the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 into the news ten days before the 34th anniversary of this devastating terrorist attack over Lockerbie.
I have often been asked whether it was Libya or Iran that was behind the Lockerbie bombing. The argument for Iran’s involvement is that they were seeking revenge for the shooting down of one of their civilian aircraft by a US warship five months earlier. The much stronger case is that Gadhafi was retaliating for the loss of the Aouzou Strip, a disputed piece of land between Chad and Libya that is full of Uranium deposits and provided the Brother Leader with much of his nuclear weapon capability. Gadhafi believed that the French and American military assistance to Chad tipped the balance and led to 7,000 Libyans being killed in what became known as the Toyota War.
His first act of revenge was to destroy a French DC-10 that was flying from Brassaville (in the People’s Republic of Congo) to Paris on 19 September 1989. The death of all the 170 passengers and crew, from 18 countries, was not widely reported because it occurred over the Niger desert, but the use of a suitcase bomb should have put everyone on high alert.
A similar mode was used against the US Boeing-747 en-route from London to New York. The violent death of 259 passengers and crew as well as eleven residents of Lockerbie was much more widely reported than the September bombing, but I find it strange how few reporters made the connection between the two attacks that were only three months apart.
The censure of the international community and the reaction of President Reagan condemned Libya into ten years of isolation until Gadhafi agreed to hand over two individuals, who were tried by the Scottish courts. His seclusion ended after he donated $1 Billion to the families of the victims of Lockerbie and handed over his weapons of mass destruction and agreed to help US and UK intelligence agencies in the fight against Al Qa’ida. Much more of this story is covered in chapters 15 and 16 of my book, Liberating Libya, which I wrote with help from the British ambassadors at the time of Gadhafi’s reintegration into the international community.
WMD Ready for Loading onto a US C-17 at Mitiga Airbase Following Gadhafi’s Lockerbie deal with the US Government