On Tuesday, September 19, 1989, a French airline Union de Transports Aériens (UTA), crashed in the landlocked country Niger in West Africa, killing all 170 passengers and crew. UTA Flight 772 was a regularly scheduled flight between Brazzaville in the People’s Republic of the Congo to Paris, France, with a stop in N’Djamena, Chad.

Route map

The plane was cruising at 31,500 feet when the bomb exploded. Image: GCmaps

The aircraft performing the flight was a 16-year-old McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 registered N54629. The plane had completed 14,777 flight cycles and over 60,276 flight hours at the time of the crash.

Forty-six minutes after taking off from N’Djamena a bomb exploded

After an uneventful first leg of the journey, the plane took off from N’Djamena International Airport (NDJ) at 13:13 local time. Forty-six minutes into the flight, while cruising at 35,100 feet, a bomb exploded in the cargo hold, causing the plane to break up 280 miles east of Agadez in the southern Ténéré of Niger.

 Eric Gaba and Max Smith via Wikimedia Commons. “” data-img-url=”https://static1.simpleflyingimages.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/440px-Map_of_UTA_Flight_772_b.jpg” data-modal-container-id=”single-image-modal-container” data-modal-id=”single-image-modal”>

The location of the crash

The plane’s wreckage was found scattered over hundreds of miles of the Sahara Desert. All 156 passengers, including Bonnie Pugh, the wife of the American Ambassador to Chad, and 14 crew members, died instantly.

Immediately after the crash, Leonardo Leonardi, a spokesperson for the Italian Embassy in Paris, said that the embassy believed six Italians were on the flight. Other nationalities included 54 French, 48 nationals of the People’s Republic of Congo, 25 Chadians, 7 Americans, 5 Cameroonians, 4 Britons, 3 citizens of Zaire (now the 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 and three additional Italians.

The investigation

Following a thorough investigation by the commission of the International Civil Aviation Organization, it was determined that a bomb placed in the forward cargo hold was to blame. The suggestion was that the bomb was in a suitcase that had been loaded on the plane at Brazzaville Maya Maya International Airport (BZV).

Aero Icarus via Flickr.“” data-img-url=”https://static1.simpleflyingimages.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/5659683760_8742af0372_k.jpg” data-modal-container-id=”single-image-modal-container” data-modal-id=”single-image-modal”>

 A UTA DC-10

Initially, investigators turned their attention towards Islamic Jihad, which had quickly claimed responsibility for the attack. Also in the spotlight was a secret Chadian resistance group that was opposed to president Hissen Habré. The bombing of UTA Flight 772 was not the first terrorism incident to a UTA aircraft in Chad, with an explosion on a UTA DC-8 in N’Djamena in 1984. The plane had already landed in that incident, and there were no fatalities. Those responsible, however, were never found.

The focus turned toward Libya

A break in the case of UTA Flight 772 occurred when a Congolese opposition figure confessed to having recruited someone to put the bomb aboard the aircraft. The confession led to charges being drawn up for six Libyan nationals:

  • The brother-in-law of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Abdullah Senussi, the deputy head of Libyan intelligence.
  • Counselor at the Libyan embassy in Brazzaville Abdullah Elazragh.
  • Libyan Secret Service explosive experts Ibrahim Naeli and Arbas Musbah.
  • Issa Shibani, the Libyan agent who purchased the timer for the bomb.
  • Senussi’s right-hand man Abdelsalam Hammouda, who French authorities claimed organized the plot.

Because Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi refused to let France extradite the suspects for trial in Paris, all six were trialed in absentia and found guilty.

The alleged motive for the attack was the French support of Chad during the Chadian-Libyan conflict (1978–1987).

Source: simpleflying.com

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