CNN Editorial Research
Here’s a selected list of commercial airplane crashes caused by military acts or by terrorism.
June 14, 1940 – Soviet bombers shoot down the Kaleva, a Finnish commercial plane traveling from Estonia to Finland, killing all nine on board. One passenger was Henry W. Antheil Jr., an American diplomat who was carrying diplomatic pouches from US legations in Estonia and Latvia.
March 3, 1942 – Japanese aircraft shoot down a KNILM flight on its way to Broome, Australia. The plane crash-lands on the beach at Carnot Bay. Four people die.
June 1, 1943 – British actor Leslie Howard is among 17 killed when German fighters shoot down a British Overseas Airways Corporation flight over the Bay of Biscay.
July 23, 1954 – A Cathay Pacific flight is shot down by a Chinese Army fighter plane off the coast of Hainan Island, killing 10 people.
April 11, 1955 – Sixteen people die when a bomb explodes on an Air India flight from Hong Kong to Jakarta, Indonesia. The “Kashmir Princess” was flying to the Afro-Asian Bandung conference. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai may have been the target; however, he was not on the flight.
July 27, 1955 – El Al Flight 402, bound for Israel, is shot down by two Bulgarian fighter jets after the plane strays into Bulgarian territory. All 58 on board are killed.
May 10, 1961 – Following an onboard explosion, Air France Flight 406 crashes near Algeria, killing all 78 people on board.
October 12, 1967 – A bomb goes off on Cyprus Airways Flight 284 on its way from Athens, Greece, to Cyprus, killing all 66 on board. No one claims responsibility, and the perpetrators remain undiscovered.
February 21, 1970 – A Swissair flight from Zurich, Switzerland, to Tel Aviv, Israel, crashes after a bomb explodes. All 47 people on board die. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine initially claims responsibility, but later denies involvement, according to news reports. Swiss officials, who had named suspects from Jordan, end their investigation in 2000 without having solved the case.
February 21, 1973 – Israeli fighters shoot down a Libyan Arab Airlines plane after it strays into the airspace of the Sinai Peninsula, then under Israeli control. Of the 113 people on board, 108 are killed.
May 18, 1973 – An Aeroflot flight explodes above Siberia on its way to Chita, USSR, from Moscow after a hijacker detonates a bomb. At least 80 people are killed.
September 8, 1974 – All 88 passengers on a TWA flight that originated in Tel Aviv, Israel, but had just taken off from Athens, Greece, are killed when an explosion causes the plane to crash. Terrorists linked to the Abu Nidal group are suspected.
January 1, 1976 – A bomb explodes on a Middle East Airlines flight from Beirut, Lebanon, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. At least 80 people on board are killed. No one claims responsibility.
October 6, 1976 – A Cubana Airlines flight explodes near Barbados, killing all 73 people on board. Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile and former CIA agent, is charged with the bombing, as is Orlando Bosch, a Posada collaborator. Incarcerated while awaiting trial, Posada spends nine years in a jail in Venezuela, until he escapes in 1985. Bosch is released in 1987. The two were never convicted.
September 3, 1978 – Air Rhodesia Flight 825 is shot down by guerrillas in the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army. The plane crash-lands, killing 38 of the 56 passengers and crew members. The guerrillas kill 10 of the survivors.
February 12, 1979 – All 59 people on board Air Rhodesia Flight 827 die when the plane is shot down by a missile fired by guerrilla forces during the country’s civil war.
August 11, 1982 – A bomb explodes on Pan Am Flight 830, carrying 270 passengers from Tokyo to Hawaii. A Japanese teenager is killed and several other passengers are injured. Mohammed Rashed of the 15 May terrorist group is arrested in Greece in 1988 and serves eight years of a 15-year prison sentence there. He is arrested by the FBI in 1998 and brought back to the United States. Rashed is convicted in 2006 on conspiracy and murder charges. He is released in 2013.
September 1, 1983 – Soviet fighter jets shoot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 as it mistakenly flies over Soviet air space. All 269 on board are killed, including US Rep. Larry McDonald (D-Ga.)
September 23, 1983 – 112 people are killed when a Gulf Air jet is brought down by a bomb in the cargo hold. The plane was flying from Pakistan to the United Arab Emirates when it went down in the United Arab Emirates. Terrorists from the Abu Nidal group are linked to the attack.
June 23, 1985 – Air India Flight 182 explodes near Ireland. With 329 fatalities, it is the deadliest commercial aviation bombing to date. Both Sikh and Kashmiri terrorists are blamed for the attack. Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Sikh, is the only person convicted. He pleads guilty to a manslaughter charge.
November 29, 1987 – Two North Korean agents plant a bomb on Korean Air Flight 858, flying from Baghdad, Iraq, to Seoul, South Korea. The explosion kills all on board, 104 passengers and 11 crew members.
July 3, 1988 – The USS Vincennes mistakes an Iran Air Airbus for an Iranian fighter jet and shoots down the passenger plane bound for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, killing all 290 people aboard.
December 21, 1988 – Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground. The United States and United Kingdom blame Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, who was once security chief for Libyan Arab Airlines, and Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah — accusing them both of being Libyan intelligence agents. Libya eventually hands over both men to the United Nations in 1999 and later agrees to pay $2.7 billion to victims’ families. Al Megrahi is convicted while Fhimah is acquitted. Al Megrahi is released for medical reasons in 2009 and dies in 2012.
September 19, 1989 – UTA Flight 772 traveling to Paris is brought down over the Sahara Desert by a bomb in a suitcase, and all 156 passengers and 14 crew members are killed. A French court in 1999 finds six Libyans guilty in absentia and sentences them to life in prison.
November 27, 1989 – A bomb goes off on Avianca Flight 203 traveling from Bogota, Colombia. All 107 passengers are killed in the crash. Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Medellin drug cartel are blamed for the explosion. Two Americans are among the victims, and a US federal court in 1994 convicts Colombian Dandeny Munoz-Mosquera, an alleged assassin for the cartel, of murder.
September 21, 1993 – On three consecutive days beginning on this day, three civilian planes belonging to Transair Georgia are hit by missiles, killing a total of 136 people. Two planes are hit by Abkhazian rebel missiles, with 27 people killed aboard one and 108 on the other. A third plane comes under fire as it is being boarded, and one person is killed.
December 11, 1994 – A bomb goes off under a seat on a Philippines Airlines flight from Manila, Philippines, to Tokyo, killing one person and injuring several others. Ramzi Yousef, one of those charged with bombing the World Trade Center in 1993, is convicted in 1996 for the bombing and for plotting to blow up 12 US airliners.
September 11, 2001 – Nineteen terrorists hijack four US commercial airliners. Orchestrated by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as an attack on the United States, a total of 2,977 people are killed, including 2,753 who died when American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 intentionally crashed into the World Trade Center in Manhattan. American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, killing 184 people. Forty people died when United Airlines flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
October 4, 2001 – A Sibir Airlines flight from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Novosibirsk, Russia, is shot down and plunges into the Black Sea, killing all 78 aboard. The Ukrainian military denies responsibility at first but later admits it mistakenly shot down the plane during a training exercise.
August 24, 2004 – Two female Chechen suicide bombers almost simultaneously blow up two Russian passenger planes flying out of Moscow, killing 90.
July 17, 2014 – Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is shot down over Ukrainian territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists. All 298 people on board are killed. In 2018, investigators announce that the Buk missile that shot down the flight was fired from a launcher belonging to Russia’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade. The Russian Defense Ministry denies that any air defense missile systems ever crossed the Russia-Ukraine border.
January 8, 2020 – All 176 people on board a Boeing 737 are killed when the Kiev-bound plane crashes shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport. Later, state media reports that Iran unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian plane.
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