The aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30, registration
serial number 46852, was manufactured in 1973.
It was the 125th DC-10 produced, and had accumulated 14,777 flight cycles over 60,276 flight hours at the time of its hull loss.
On Tuesday, 19 September 1989 the McDonnell Douglas DC-10
aircraft took off from N'Djamena International Airport
at 13:13. Forty-six minutes later, at its cruising altitude of 35,100 feet (10,700 m), a suitcase bomb exploded in the cargo hold, causing UTA Flight 772 to break up over the Sahara
450 kilometres (280 mi) east of Agadez
in the southern Ténéré
. The explosion scattered debris over hundreds of square miles of desert.
All 156 passengers and 14 crew members died.
Route taken by UTA Flight 772.
Among the victims was the wife of the American ambassador to Chad at the time, Robert L. Pugh
Eight of the fatalities were oil workers (from Esso
) coming back from the completed drilling of the Kome-3
borehole in southern Chad.
After the plane was bombed, Leonardo Leonardi, a spokesperson for the Italian Embassy in Paris, said that the embassy believed that six Italians were on the flight. A spokesperson of the Friars Minor Capuchin
religious order said that two members of the order were on board the aircraft. The bishop of Moundou was on the flight.
The victims came from 18 different countries,
the majority being French, Chadian, and Congolese nationals:
54 French, 48 nationals of People's Republic of Congo, 25 Chadians, 9 Italians
, 7 Americans
, 5 Cameroonians
, 4 Britons
, 3 nationals of Zaire
(Democratic Republic of the Congo
), 3 Canadians
, 2 Central Africans
, 2 Malians
, 2 Swiss
, 1 Algerian
, 1 Bolivian
, 1 Belgian
, 1 Greek
, 1 Moroccan
and 1 Senegalese
An investigation commission of the International Civil Aviation Organization
determined that a bomb
placed in a container in location 13-R in the forward cargo hold caused the destruction of the aircraft. The commission suggested that the most plausible hypothesis was for the bomb to have been inside the baggage loaded at Brazzaville airport. Initial speculation over which groups might have been responsible for destroying UTA Flight 772 centered upon Islamic Jihad
, who were quick to claim responsibility for the attack, and the "Secret Chadian Resistance" rebel group, which opposed president Hissen Habré
Five years previously, on 10 March 1984, a bomb destroyed another UTA aircraft from Brazzaville shortly after the DC-8
had landed at N'Djamena airport. There were no fatalities on that occasion and those responsible were never identified.
Trial in absentia
The investigators obtained a confession from one of the alleged terrorists, a Congolese opposition figure, who had helped recruit a fellow dissident to smuggle the bomb onto the aircraft.
This confession led to charges being brought against six Libyans. French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière
identified them, as follows:
- Abdullah Senussi, brother-in-law of Muammar Gaddafi, and deputy head of Libyan intelligence;
- Abdullah Elazragh, Counsellor at the Libyan embassy in Brazzaville;
- Ibrahim Naeli and Arbas Musbah, explosives experts in the Libyan secret service;
- Issa Shibani, the secret agent who purchased the timer that allegedly triggered the bomb; and,
- Abdelsalam Hammouda, Senussi's right-hand man, who was said to have coordinated the attack.
In 1999, the six Libyans were put on trial in the Paris Assize Court
for the bombing of UTA Flight 772. Because Gaddafi would not allow their extradition
to France, the six were tried in absentia
and were convicted.
On 5 September 2012, the country of Mauritania
extradited Abdullah Senussi to Libyan authorities. Senussi was to be tried in Libya for crimes he allegedly committed during the time he was the close assistant to Gaddafi.
Senussi appeared in a Libyan court for a pre-trial hearing on 19 September 2013. On 11 October 2013, the International Criminal Court ruled that he can be tried in Libya and lifted their warrant.
The Paris court awarded the families of the UTA victims sums ranging from €3 000 to €30 000 depending on their relationship to the dead. Not content with this award, the French relatives' group "Les Familles du DC10 d'UTA"
signed an agreement on 9 January 2004 with the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations
accepting a compensation payment of US$170 million, or $1 million for each of the 170 UTA victims. By May 2007, it was reported that 95% of this compensation money had been distributed.
However, the families of the seven American victims refused to accept their US$1 million awards and are pursuing the Libyan government through a federal court in Washington
. On 19 September 2006, the court was asked to rule that the Libyan government and six of its agents were guilty of the destruction of UTA Flight 772 on 19 September 1989. Damages of more than US$2 billion were claimed for the loss of life and the destruction of the DC-10 jet.
In April 2007, D.C. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy found Libya directly responsible for the bombing and presided over a three-day bench trial from 13 August 2007 to 15 August 2007. On 15 January 2008, Judge Kennedy issued an order awarding US$6 billion in damages to the families and owners of the airliner.
Libya has appealed this decision.
In October 2008 Libya paid $
1.5 billion into a fund which will be used to compensate relatives of the
- Lockerbie bombing victims;
- American victims of the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing;
- American victims of the 1989 UTA Flight 772 bombing; and,
- Libyan victims of the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi.
In Manipulations Africaines
), published in February 2001, Pierre Péan
investigated the sabotage of UTA Flight 772. He alleged that evidence pointed to Iran
(acting through the Hezbollah
movement), but that due to political context (notably the Gulf War
), France and the United States tried to put the blame on Libya
. He accuses judge Jean-Louis Bruguière
of deliberately neglecting proof of Lebanon, Syria and Iran being involved to pursue only the Libyan trail. He also accused Thomas Thurman
, a Federal Bureau of Investigation
explosives expert, of fabricating false evidence against Libya in both the Pan Am Flight 103
and UTA Flight 772 sabotages.
On 18 July 2011, former Libyan foreign minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham
, who had defected from the Libyan government in March at the beginning of what would become the 2011 Libyan civil war
, told al-Hayat
that the Libyan government was responsible for the bombing of UTA Flight 772. He stated "The Libyan security services blew up the plane. They believed that opposition leader Mohammed al-Megrief
was on board, but after the plane was blown up, it was found that he was not on the plane." He also claimed that "The Lockerbie operation
was more complex ... the role of states and organizations has been discussed, and while the Libyan services were implicated, I do not think it was a purely Libyan operation.
In 2007 a memorial was created in the desert by Les Familles de l'Attentat du DC-10 d'UTA, an association of the victims' families. In order to retain the sanctity of the crash site, the memorial is about 10 km away from it.
The memorial, at 16°51′53.748″N 11°57′13.362″E
, is constructed of black rock in the shape and dimensions of the DC10 airplane inside a compass, with one of the plane's stabilizers used as a compass point, and over 170 broken mirrors to reflect the victims of the crash.
The memorial is visible in aerial imagery on Google Maps
The organizer of the memorial was Frenchman Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, whose father, Jean-Henri, died on the flight.
Location of the accident and the airports
- ^ "FAA Registry (N54629)". Federal Aviation Administration.
- ^ UTA N54629 (Airfleets). Retrieved: 20 April 2014.
- ^ a b c Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 N54629 Ténéré desert". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
- ^ Whitney, Craig R. (8 May 1997). "France Charges 6 Libyans With '89 Sahara Jet Bombing". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
- ^ a b c "Court Awards US Victims More Than $6 Billion for 1989 Libyan Terrorist Bombing of French Airliner That Killed 170 People Over African Desert." PR Newswire. 15 January 2008. Retrieved on 3 June 2009.
- ^ "Plane with 171 aboard explodes." New Straits Times. Thursday 21 September 1989. Retrieved from Google News (1 of 24) on 27 April 2011.
- ^ a b "Les Familles de l'Attentat du DC10 d'UTA - membre de l'AfVT" [Families of the UTA DC10 Attack - AfVT member]. www.dc10-uta.org (in French). Retrieved 24 May 2019.
- ^ "BOMB BLAMED FOR CRASH OF FRENCH JET". Deseret News. 20 September 1989. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
- ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63PF F-BOLL N'Djamena Airport (NDJ)". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
- ^ Péan, Pierre (1 March 2001). "Les preuves trafiquées du terrorisme libyen" [Tampered evidence of Libyan terrorism]. Le Monde diplomatique (in French). Retrieved 24 May 2019.
- ^ "Mauritania 'extradites Libya ex-spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi'". BBC News. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
- ^ "Gaddafi spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi in court". BBC News. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
- ^ "Menu of ITA Websites". photius.com. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
- ^ Greenwald, John (21 September 1987). "Disputes Raiders of the Armed Toyotas". TIME.
- ^ "Les Familles de l'Attentat du DC10 d'UTA - membre de l'AfVT". www.dc10-uta.org. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
- ^ Over $160 million of Libyan compensation distributed[permanent dead link]
- ^ Compensation claim by American relativesArchived 23 March 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- ^ "U.S. court orders Libya to pay $6 billion for bombing". Reuters. 16 January 2007. Retrieved 18 January 2007.
- ^ Memorandum, Robert Pugh, et al. v. Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Civ. Action No. 02-2026-HHK (D.D.C. 15 January 2007)
- ^ "U.S. judge orders Libya to pay billions to plane victims," Houston Chronicle, 17 January 2008
- ^ "Libya compensates terror victims". BBC News. 31 October 2008. Retrieved 1 November 2008.
- ^ (in French) Les preuves trafiquées du terrorisme libyen
- ^ Pierre Péan (2001). "African Manipulations: Tainted Evidence of Libyan Terrorism". Retrieved 24 January 2009.
- ^ "Ex-foreign minister says Libya behind 1989 airline attack". Al Arabiya. 18 July 2011. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
- ^ "The Sahara memorial seen from space". Retrieved 22 January 2014.
- ^ "Les Familles de l'Attentat du DC-10 d'UTA". Retrieved 16 June 2009.
- ^ "UTA Flight 772 memorial". Google Sightseeing. Retrieved 16 June 2009.
- ^ "UTA Flight 772 Memorial from Google Earth". DigitalGlobe. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
- ^ "I Noticed This Tiny Thing on Google Maps. When I Zoomed In… Well, Nothing Could Prepare Me". ViralNova.com. 2 November 2013.
- ^ "UTA Flight 772 Memorial". Snopes. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
- ^ Venema, Vibeke (22 January 2014). "The Sahara memorial seen from space". BBC. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
Last edited on 6 May 2021, at 20:57
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