From Swissair Flight 330 to Lockerbie: 7 fatal terrorist bombings of commercial airplanes

Published November 8th, 2015 - 01:10 GMT

It’s becoming increasingly likely that the Russian plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31 was caused by a terror attack. Although Egypt is keeping mum on their investigation, British Prime Minister David Cameron said “more likely than not” the plane was brought down by a bomb. US security officials have said they are “99.9% certain” of it. From Swissair Flight 330 to the Lockerbie bombing, here are seven other terror attacks from history where bombs were successfully detonated on passenger jets.

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swissair flight 330 bombing

In Feb. 1970, Swissair Flight 330 was flying from Zurich to Hong Kong with a stopover in Tel Aviv when an explosion occurred in the storage compartment in the belly of the plane. All 47 people on board were killed. The crash is suspected to have been the work of Palestinian guerillas.

pan am flight 830 bombing

In Aug. 1982, Pan Am Flight 830 was flying from Tokyo to Hawaii when a bomb placed under a seat exploded. Though the bomb killed 1 and injured over a dozen others, the plane landed safely in Honolulu. A Jordanian-born man with ties to the Palestinian militant group 15 May Organization pled guilty to the crime 20 years later.

twa flight 840 bombing

In April 1986, a bomb blew a hole in the side of TWA Flight 840 after it took off from Rome, sucking 4 people out of the plane. An obscure Palestinian group called “Arab Revolutionary Cells” claimed responsibility, saying the bomb was revenge for “American imperial aggression.” Despite the 4 deaths, the plane landed safely in Athens.

iraqi airways flight 163

On Christmas Day in 1986, hijackers set off two grenades on Iraqi Airways Flight 163, prompting a 20 minute gun battle with Iraqi security guards on board. The plane crashed in the Saudi Arabian desert, killing 62 people. Three pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon, including Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for the attack.

lockerbie bombing wreckage

In Dec. 1988, a bomb went off on Pan Am Flight 103 shortly after it had departed London. The jet crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board and 11 others on the ground. The attack became known as “The Lockerbie Bombing” and led to a massive investigation involving more than 15,000 interviews on multiple continents.

Abdelbaset al Megrahi libya

A Libyan national named Abdelbaset al Megrahi was the only person convicted in the Lockerbie attack, but Megrahi went to his grave claiming to be innocent. Two new suspects in the bombing were named earlier this year, one of whom was the brother-in-law and an intelligence chief for Muammar Gaddafi. Both suspects currently sit in Libyan jails.

UTA flight 772 bombing

9 months after Lockerbie, a bomb detonated in the cargo hold of a plane flying over the Sahara Desert, killing all 171 passengers. Libyan officials later said the Gaddafi regime had blown up the plane in an attempt to kill an opposition leader who wasn’t even onboard. Libya ended up paying over $170 million in damages to the victims’ families.

russia 2004 plane terror bombings

On Aug. 24, 2004, a few days before elections in Chechnya, two planes crashed almost simultaneously in southern Russia, killing everyone on board (89 people in total). Traces of the explosive material RDX was found on the planes; Chechen terrorist leader Shamil Basayev later claimed responsibility for the attacks.

2004 russia plane bombings

Two Chechen women in their 30s who lived in Grozny are suspected of having carrying out the attacks in Russia. Both women are thought to have died along with the other passengers. The brother of one of the women had gone missing three years earlier, and the family claimed he had been abducted by Russian security services.

swissair flight 330 bombing
pan am flight 830 bombing
twa flight 840 bombing
iraqi airways flight 163
lockerbie bombing wreckage
Abdelbaset al Megrahi libya
UTA flight 772 bombing
russia 2004 plane terror bombings
2004 russia plane bombings
swissair flight 330 bombing
In Feb. 1970, Swissair Flight 330 was flying from Zurich to Hong Kong with a stopover in Tel Aviv when an explosion occurred in the storage compartment in the belly of the plane. All 47 people on board were killed. The crash is suspected to have been the work of Palestinian guerillas.
pan am flight 830 bombing
In Aug. 1982, Pan Am Flight 830 was flying from Tokyo to Hawaii when a bomb placed under a seat exploded. Though the bomb killed 1 and injured over a dozen others, the plane landed safely in Honolulu. A Jordanian-born man with ties to the Palestinian militant group 15 May Organization pled guilty to the crime 20 years later.
twa flight 840 bombing
In April 1986, a bomb blew a hole in the side of TWA Flight 840 after it took off from Rome, sucking 4 people out of the plane. An obscure Palestinian group called “Arab Revolutionary Cells” claimed responsibility, saying the bomb was revenge for “American imperial aggression.” Despite the 4 deaths, the plane landed safely in Athens.
iraqi airways flight 163
On Christmas Day in 1986, hijackers set off two grenades on Iraqi Airways Flight 163, prompting a 20 minute gun battle with Iraqi security guards on board. The plane crashed in the Saudi Arabian desert, killing 62 people. Three pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon, including Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for the attack.
lockerbie bombing wreckage
In Dec. 1988, a bomb went off on Pan Am Flight 103 shortly after it had departed London. The jet crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board and 11 others on the ground. The attack became known as “The Lockerbie Bombing” and led to a massive investigation involving more than 15,000 interviews on multiple continents.
Abdelbaset al Megrahi libya
A Libyan national named Abdelbaset al Megrahi was the only person convicted in the Lockerbie attack, but Megrahi went to his grave claiming to be innocent. Two new suspects in the bombing were named earlier this year, one of whom was the brother-in-law and an intelligence chief for Muammar Gaddafi. Both suspects currently sit in Libyan jails.
UTA flight 772 bombing
9 months after Lockerbie, a bomb detonated in the cargo hold of a plane flying over the Sahara Desert, killing all 171 passengers. Libyan officials later said the Gaddafi regime had blown up the plane in an attempt to kill an opposition leader who wasn’t even onboard. Libya ended up paying over $170 million in damages to the victims’ families.
russia 2004 plane terror bombings
On Aug. 24, 2004, a few days before elections in Chechnya, two planes crashed almost simultaneously in southern Russia, killing everyone on board (89 people in total). Traces of the explosive material RDX was found on the planes; Chechen terrorist leader Shamil Basayev later claimed responsibility for the attacks.
2004 russia plane bombings
Two Chechen women in their 30s who lived in Grozny are suspected of having carrying out the attacks in Russia. Both women are thought to have died along with the other passengers. The brother of one of the women had gone missing three years earlier, and the family claimed he had been abducted by Russian security services.