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Pan Am flight 103

On the evening of December 21, 1988, a bomb exploded on board Pan Am Flight 103, en route from Frankfurt, via London, to New York. All 259 passengers and crew were killed, as were 11 people on the ground near the Scottish town of Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway. Debris and body parts were scattered over a large area.

It remains somewhat unclear both who was responsible, and the motives for the attack, despite the conviction of one suspect. Some believe terrorists connected with Abu Nidal were responsible. The British and American governments publicly blamed a Palestinian terrorist group backed by Syria. Naturally, there were conspiracy theories too.

On February 16, 1989 investigators in Lockerbie announces that the cause of the crash was found to be a bomb hidden inside a radio-cassette player.

In 1991, a British investigation concluded that two Libyans, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi[?], a senior officer in Libya's intelligence service, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah[?], were responsible. Much needed to be decided about how they could possibly be tried. (Libya had not been on friendly terms with these two nations since the 1986 bombardment of Tripoli by American planes based in Britain.) Libya refused to hand over the two suspects, resulting in UN sanctions being imposed beginning in 1992.

In 1998, as several countries started to ignore the sanctions, the Libyan government conceded to a trial in a "neutral" country. The solution was to try the men in the Netherlands under Scottish law, at Camp Zeist, a location that would be declared Scottish territory for the duration of the trial. The parties finally agreed, and in August 1998 the sanctions were suspended.

On April 5, 1999 two Libyans suspected of bringing down Pan Am flight 103 were handed over for eventual trial in the Netherlands.

The trial began on May 3, 2000 and reached a verdict on January 31, 2001. Al Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment; Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was found not guilty. Al Megrahi appealed the verdict, but this was rejected on March 14, 2002 and he was moved to prison in Glasgow.

There have been calls for a fresh appeal, and for Al Megrahi to serve his sentence in a Muslim country. A commission from the Organisation of African Unity criticised the basis of Al Megrahi's conviction. In June 2002 Nelson Mandela showed his sympathy by visiting him in prison.

In October 2002 it was reported that the Libyan government had made a compensation offer of $2.7 billion, about $10 million per victim.

See also: List of terrorist incidents

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