The purpose of this atrocity remains shrouded in uncertainty, but seems likely to have been rooted in the kind of madness of Middle Eastern politics and friction with the west that continues to this day. 16 days before the attack, a credible warning was received by the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki that a commercial flight would be bombed by the Abu Nidal organisation. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation also warned that another regional faction - the snappily-monikered General Command of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine might commit a terrorist atrocity in order to disrupt peace negotiations underway at the time.
ResponsibilityBy 1999, forensic evidence had identified that the explosives had got on board the flight at Frankfurt airport, probably having been loaded in Malta. Through a Maltese merchant, the owner of the clothing was identified as Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and he was tried and convicted in Scotland for murder. Many doubts were raised at the time - and ever since - about the strength of the evidence used for his conviction. Al-Megrahi himself maintained his innocence until his death. He was released in 2008 on compassionate grounds, having served eight and a half years in Greenock Prison.
In 2003, Muammar Gadaffi - leader of Libya - accepted his country's responsibility for the bombing, while denying having ever issued a direct order commanding it to take place.
Other passengersOne notable feature of the flight was the presence of several senior U.S. intelligence figures on board. All of them were flying back to the U.S. with two Diplomatic Security Service special agents acting as their bodyguards, and were connected with U.S. intelligence in the Middle East - particularly in the Lebanon. It is widely speculated among conspiracy theorists that the bombing was intended primarily to target these men.
- Matthew Gannon, the CIA's deputy station chief in Beirut, Lebanon
- Major Chuck McKee - an army officer returning from an assignment with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Beirut
- Ronald Lariviere, security officer from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut
- Daniel O'Connor, security officer from the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus
See also: conspiracy theories