Unraveling the Tragic History of Alas Chiricanas Airlines Flight 00901: A Terrorist Act in Panama, 1994

A Date Marked by Tragedy in Jewish History: July 19, 1994

Embarking from Enrique Jimenez Airport in Colon, Panama, the Alas Chiricanas Airlines Flight 00901 was a commercial Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante aircraft carrying 19 passengers. Interestingly, 12 out of the 19 passengers were Jewish businessmen. The flight, which was also manned by 3 on-duty crew members, was en route to Ciudad de Panamá, Panama’s capital. Regrettably, the plane exploded and crashed shortly after takeoff at around 4:30 pm local time, leading to the death of everyone aboard. Remnants of the aircraft fell across Panama’s Santa Rita Mountains. Investigation teams deduced that a bomb was the cause of the explosion, making it highly probable that a suicide bomber was involved. Of the 21 individuals on Alas Chiricanas Airlines Flight 00901, 20 were identified by their family or friends post-investigation.

The Suspected Perpetrator: Ali Hawa Jamal

Ali Hawa Jamal, the only passenger who wasn’t claimed by relatives but was identified by authorities, was believed to be the suicide bomber. Investigations led to him using stolen American credit cards for renting cars in Panama. These rented vehicles were then found abandoned near airports in the country. The same stolen credit card was also traced to the purchase of a Motorola mobile device from a Panamanian business, which was a two-way communication system, brought onboard the flight by Jamal. Along with Jamal, other Middle Eastern suspects with travel history in 1994 between Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Lebanon were also under scrutiny for potential terrorism in Panama.

An Act of Anti-Semitic Violence?

This tragedy was declared a hate crime against Jews by the Panamanian, Israeli, and US governments, given the number of Jewish passengers and a simultaneous bombing at a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Hezbollah was blamed for the Buenos Aires attack, leading investigators to believe the group was also responsible for this airplane explosion. The Panama and US investigative authorities still categorize this event as an unsolved terrorist act. While Panama agreed with Israel in 2018 to continue the investigation, some journalists suggest that Iran has pressured Panama to limit their probing into the attack.

References and Resources

Embraer aircraft similar to the one that crashed
Ali Hawa Jamal wanted poster
Local Newspaper Cover
News clip of crash indicating Israel’s attribution of responsibility to Hezbollah

– FBI: FBI Report on Ali Hawa Jamal
– BBC: BBC News Coverage
– Yonkers Tribune: Yonkers Tribune Article
– Wikipedia: Wikipedia Entry for Alas Chiricanas Airlines Flight 00901