Lockerbie Bombing


*Key Events

          -December 21, 1988: Pan Am Flight 103 takes off from London’s Heathrow Airport to New York’s JFK Intl. Airport.

          -The Boeing 747 took off at 6:25 PM flying northwest.

          -7:00 PM: PA103 passes into Scottish airspace.

          -7:02 PM: Scottish air traffic control loses radar contact with PA103.

          -243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed.  11 Lockerbie residents were killed.

          -Wing section hit Lockerbie at 500 mph, creating 155ft. crater, vaporizing several houses, and destroying dozens more.

          -10,000 pieces of debris were retrieved, along with fragments of a suitcase believed to be the one containing the bomb.

          -Bomb was made out of plastic explosive Semtex, hidden in cassette player in suitcase.

          -Muammar Qaddafi refuses to extradite the two suspects from Libya until April 1999, when the US and UK offer to try them in a neutral country with Scottish judges.

          -January 31, 2001: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was found guilty and convicted of murder, sentenced to life in prison in Scotland.

          -August 16, 2003:  Libya formally admits responsibility for bombings in letter to UN Security Council.

          -August 20, 2009: UK gives Megrahi “compassionate release” as he is dying of prostate cancer.



*Media Coverage

          –Initially U.S. and UK media shocked, believing Libyans were responsible.

          -Mainstream media in Britain reported that Megrahi was framed.

          -According to British journalist Hugh Miles in 2007, many “lawyers, politicians, diplomats and relatives of Lockerbie victims now believe that the former Libyan intelligence officer is innocent.”  

-American media and officials have “tepid” reaction to the 2009 release of Megrahi. 



*Iranian Explanation

1986 USS Vincennes shoots down Iranian passenger jet killing all 290 passengers

1988 Iran hires Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine to carry out Lockerbie attacks


*Libyan Explanation

-1979 Mob burns US embassy, US diplomats leave Libya

-1979 Libya placed on list for states who sponser terrorism

-1981 US closes Libyan embassy and dispels Libyan diplomats

-1981 US aircraft shoot down two Libyan fighter jets

-1985 Abu Nidal attacks Roman airport with Libyan funding


  • US sinks two Libyan boats
  • Libya bombs Berlin night club which kills US military personnel
  • US bombs capitol of Tripoli and Benghazi seaport
  • US implements strong trade sanctions against Libya

1988 Libyan agents carry out Lockerbie attack

*Key Players

  • United States
  • Abu Nidal
  • Libya
  • Al Meghari



Key Events/Media Coverage








“Abu Nidal — A Profile of Terrorist Leader Abu Nidal.” Terrorism. Web. 17 Feb. 2010. <>.

Crail, Peter. “Chronology of Libya’s Disarmament and Relations with the United States | Arms Control Association.” Arms Control Association | The authoritative source on arms control since 1971. Web. 17 Feb. 2010. <>.

“Mystery as Lockerbie bomber goes missing from home and hospital – Times Online.” Times Online | News and Views from The Times and Sunday Times. 16 Dec. 2009. Web. 17 Feb. 2010. <>.

“Pan Am Flight 103 Bombing — 1988 Lockerbie Bombing Led to Libyan Convictions.” Terrorism. Web. 17 Feb. 2010. <>.

“U.S.-Libyan Relations: An Analytic Compendium of U.S. Policies, Laws, and Regulations | Atlantic Council.” Atlantic Council | Renewing the Atlantic Community for 21st Century Global Challenges. 1 Aug. 2003. Web. 17 Feb. 2010. <>.