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Ex-Italian PM claims 1980 passenger jet crash was failed attempt by France to kill Gaddafi

More than 40 years after the mysterious shooting down of an Italian plane that carried 81 passengers, former two-time premier Giuliano Amato claims France was behind it
Former two-time premier Giuliano Amato pictured in April 2013 (AFP/file photo)

A former Italian head of government has accused France and the United States of being responsible for the deaths of 81 aircraft passengers in a mysterious crash more than 40 years ago, in a failed assassination attempt on former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi.

On the evening of 27 June 1980, the Itavia flight 870, with 81 people on board, crashed near the island of Ustica (north of Sicily), resulting in the deaths of passengers and crew members. The incident is one of Italy's worst air disasters in history.

In an explosive interview published on Saturday by the newspaper La Repubblica, former Prime Minister Giuliano Amato said he supported the claim that France, with the assistance of Washington, sought to eliminate Libyan leader Gaddafi, believing he was on board the targeted aircraft. The passenger plane was shot down by a missile fired by a French fighter jet, Amato alleged. 

"The most credible version is that of the responsibility of the French air force, with the complicity of the Americans," he said, adding that it was done "with the intention of 'taking out Gaddafi'." 

The French government has yet to respond to the claims, but Paris and Washington have consistently denied any involvement in the tragedy.

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According to Amato, the national secretary of the Italian Socialist party at the time, Bettino Craxi, who was known to be close to Colonel Gaddafi, had "heard" of a danger to him if he entered Italian airspace and had warned him.

On Saturday, Craxi's son wrote on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that his father had indeed warned Gaddafi "but in 1986", which was six years after the catastrophe, he specified.

In 2003, Gaddafi accused the US of attempting to assassinate him at that time.

Amato requested French President Emmanuel Macron to "cleanse the shame that weighs on France", either by demonstrating that this thesis is unfounded or, if confirmed, by offering "the most sincere apologies to Italy and the victims' families".

A criminal trial against several high-ranking Italian military officials, suspected of concealing information in this case, concluded in 2007 with their acquittal by the Court of Cassation.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has called on Amato to provide concrete evidence to support his accusations.

"I ask Prime Minister Amato, in addition to his deductions, to let us know if he possesses any elements that could challenge the conclusions of the judiciary and parliament and make them available to the government," she said.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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