Iran's president makes a veiled threat, reminds Trump of Lockerbie bombing in the wake of Soleimani's death

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed while flying over the Scotland town in which 270 people were killed. Western intelligence believed Iran was behind the attack to avenge the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 by US Navy in July that year, killing all 290 onboard.

                            Iran's president makes a veiled threat, reminds Trump of Lockerbie bombing in the wake of Soleimani's death
Slain Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani (left) and President Donald Trump (Pic credits: AP and Getty Images)

Iran has been left fuming since the assassination of its charismatic military leader Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad airport in an American airstrike last Friday, January 3. While a bounty worth $80 million has been offered for President Donald Trump’s head for ordering the fatal attack that also killed a prominent Iraqi leader and others, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was also accused of threatening the US with another Lockerbie-like incident. He tweeted a veiled reference to the bombing of an Iranian passenger jet (Flight 655) accidentally by the US Navy in the Persian Gulf in July 1988 that left 290 people dead. Five months later, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb in Scotland air and it killed 270 people.

Libya was blamed for the Lockerbie bombing but the US suspected that it was Iran that was instrumental behind the terror attack to avenge the downing of the Iranian plane. Rouhani’s reference to the incident in a tweet as a threat of consequence to the Soleimani assassination case has fuelled suspicions. 

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, leads a prayer over the coffins of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and his comrades.President Hasan Rouhani is also seen. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

“Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655 Never threaten the Iranian nation,” the Iranian president’s tweet said. 


Rouhani’s response was to a tweet from Trump in which he threatened to strike 52 sites in Iran if Tehran retaliated against Washington over Soleimani’s death.

Meanwhile, Tehran saw an ocean of people on its street to mourn Soleimani’s death on the day of his funeral on Monday, January 6. Top leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the slain commander’s successor Esmail Ghaani were seen breaking down while remembering Soleimani. Ghaani has been appointed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps lieutenant general and commander of the Quds Force that Soleimani had led. The funeral had continued well into the night. The slain commander’s emotional daughter Zeinab Soleimani also vowed revenge against the US.

Lockerbie incident in details:

Pan Am Flight 103 was flying from Frankfurt to Detroit when a bomb explosion destroyed it over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988. All 243 passengers and 16 crew members on board were killed while 11 died on the ground as the aircraft’s debris destroyed 21 houses. The bomb, which was made of odorless plastic explosive Semtex, was kept in a cassette player stored in a suitcase. The slain passengers came from 21 countries but most of them were Americans. 

The Stone of Remembrance at the Memorial Garden, Dryfesdale Cemetery as people prepare to mark the 30th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 2018.  (Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Investigators suspected two Libyan intelligence agents were behind the act as a revenge for America’s 1986 bombing over Tripoli, the capital of Libya. Former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi had refused to turn over the two suspects until in 1998 when strong UN sanctions saw the duo -- Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifa Fhimah -- getting handed over. The former got 20 years in jail and the term was later raised to 27. Fhimah was acquitted. Al-Megrahi was released in 2009 on grounds of compassion and allowed to return to Libya after being diagnosed with cancer. 

On December 21 1988, Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 people on board and 11 residents on the ground. (Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

But while Libya was under suspicion, American and British intelligence heads believed it was Iran which was behind the terror attack to avenge the destruction of Iran Air Flight 655 by the American Navy in July that year. The US had accidentally downed the aircraft, which was traveling from Tehran to Dubai, in the waters of the Persian Gulf thinking it was a fighter plane. A guided cruise missile fired from the US Vincennes had shot it down, killing all 290 onboard. 

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