Lockerbie Bombing: an Ayatollah's Vengeance Exacted by Botha's Regime.
On 3 July 1988, the US Navy deliberately shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in the Persian Gulf killing all 290 civilian passengers and crew on the Airbus A300. Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini vowed that the skies would 'rain blood' in revenge. Months passed and no attempt at Iranian retaliation was made, even though there were hundreds of US passenger aircraft worldwide to target each day. A truce had been arranged for the duration of the US presidential election campaign, which ended on 8 November 1988 when Vice President George Bush was elected to succeed the incumbent Ronald Reagan. Thus, nearly six months would elapse before Iran's revenge attack finally happened.
The eventual target was a Pan American Airways Boeing 747 jumbo jet that was scheduled to depart London's Heathrow Airport on 21 December 1988. Early that morning, South African Airways Flight 234 from Johannesburg carrying an official delegation which included two government ministers landed at Heathrow. The 23-strong party was led by South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha – not to be confused with South Africa’s autocratic President P W Botha – and Defence Minister General Magnus Malan. For over a decade, apartheid South Africa had been defying UN Security Council Resolution 435 by continuing to occupy neighbouring Namibia (which President Botha insisted on calling South-West Africa) and by exploiting its valuable mineral resources in violation of UN law. On 22 December 1988 at UN headquarters in New York Pik Botha would sign an historic agreement bringing an end to the apartheid regime’s occupation of Namibia and handing over control to the United Nations. Seats had been reserved for the South African party on Pan Am Flight 101 which, following a special security check of the aircraft, took off from Heathrow at 11:00hrs GMT. Flight Pan Am 101 landed safely at JFK, New York at 13:45hrs EST.
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