UTA Flight 772 is Bombed
The DC-10 was operating as UTA Flight 772 on the Brazzaville-N'Djamena-Paris route.
The aircraft took off from N'Djamena at 13:13 and climbed to a cruising altitude of FL350. At 13:59 an explosion on board caused the aircraft to crash into the desert. The explosive device was located at location 13R in the cargo hold. The device was most probably hidden in baggage, placed aboard at Brazzaville. Possible groups responsible for the explosion are the Islamic Jihad group (demanding the freedom of a Shi'ite Muslim in Israel) or the Secret Chadian Resistance. Co-incidental on March 10, 1984 another UTA aircraft was destroyed when a bomb exploded; in this case the bomb exploded during embarkation at N'Djamena.
Flight 772 was bound for Paris from Brazzaville, Congo, with a stopover in N'Djamena, Chad. In 1999, a French criminal court convicted in absentia six Libyan officials for their role in the attack. Libya has voluntarily paid several hundred million dollars in damages to the European and African victims of the Flight 772 bombing.
In his order, Kennedy described the suffering of the 170 passengers. Based on expert testimony, the judge wrote that many passengers likely survived the initial explosion, when the suitcase bomb ripped through the DC-10. They were alive as they fell 35,000 feet to the Tenere Desert in northern Niger.
UTA Flight 772 of the French airline Union des Transports Aériens was a scheduled flight operating from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo, via N'Djamena in Chad, to Paris CDG airport in France.
On 19 September 1989 the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft registered N54629 took off from N'Djamena International Airport at 13:13. Forty six minutes later, at its cruising altitude of 10,700 metres (35,100 ft), an explosion caused UTA Flight 772 to break up over the Sahara Desert near the towns of Bilma and Ténéré in Niger. All 156 passengers and 14 crew members died, including Bonnie Pugh, wife of the American ambassador to Chad, Robert Pugh.
An investigation commission of the ICAO 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.
Wreckage of the aircraft was sent to France for forensic examination, where traces of the explosive PETN were found in the forward cargo hold. Pieces of a dark grey Samsonite suitcase covered in a layer of pentrite convinced the investigators that this was the source of the explosion. It had been loaded in Brazzaville.