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Flight 1103

Is there a connection between Libya's worst-ever aviation disaster and the Lockerbie bombing?

Last Modified: 07 Aug 2013 12:46
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Filmmaker: Mohammed al-Saedi

On December 22, 1992, Libya witnessed the worst aviation disaster in its history when, six minutes before landing, Flight 1103 from Benghazi to Tripoli plummeted 1,000 metres in just 13 seconds. All 157 people aboard were killed.

It was exactly four years and one day after the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland.

But while a Libyan national was convicted for the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people, and Muammar Gaddafi, the country's then leader, eventually conceded Libya's responsibility for the crime, the two disasters, officially at least, appeared to have little in common.

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One was regarded as a state-sponsored act of terrorism; the other as an accident attributed by the Libyan government to a mechanical fault.

Gaddafi wanted the West to draw parallels between Flight 1103 and Flight 103. If Libya had an identical aircraft to the Pan Am flight, Gaddafi would've chosen to crash that one.

Khaled Tinaz, Libyan Airlines

But the families of those who died on Flight 1103 are not so sure and remain unsatisfied by the official Libyan reports into the crash. They insist the two events may have more in common than the date on which they occurred and the eerily similar flight numbers.

Numerous theories have been floated over the decades and many Libyans believe that, at the very least, the crash provided too valuable an opportunity for Gaddafi to miss. They say he exploited the accident, using it as a propaganda tool against the sanctions that had been imposed on the country following the Lockerbie bombing. As well as suspending all international flights to and from Libya, the UN embargo on Libya banned the import of a wide range of goods, including the spare parts used in aviation.

Some claim that Gaddafi buried the findings of an inquiry into the crash which found the cause to be a collision with a military fighter jet, while others go further still, arguing that the dictator ordered the plane to be brought down in order to blame it on the West.

More than two decades on, and after Gaddafi's demise, new information has come to light. The families of the victims have called on Libya's new government to re-open the case.

Al Jazeera travels to Libya to investigate the catastrophe and to explore the lengths the Gaddafi regime went to in order to deceive and misinform.

This episode of Al Jazeera World can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2000; Wednesday: 1200; Thursday: 0100; Friday: 0600; Saturday: 2000; Sunday: 1200; Monday: 0100; Tuesday: 0600.

Click here for more Al Jazeera World.

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