LONDON/WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (Reuters) – A Libyan man accused of making the bomb that killed 270 people after Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988 has been taken into custody in the United States. States, Scottish and US law enforcement officials said Sunday.
Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi was taken into custody about two years after former US Attorney General Bill Barr first announced that the United States had brought charges against him.
A Justice Department spokesperson confirmed to Reuters on Sunday that the United States has custody of the suspect. Mas’ud is expected to make his first trial in a federal court in Washington.
Details on the timing of the hearing will follow, the spokesperson added.
Court documents describe Mas’ud as an expert bomb maker who joined the Libyan intelligence agency External Security Organization in the 1970s and took part in a number of operations outside Libya, rising to the rank of colonel.
A military source in the Libyan city of Misrata said Mas’ud had flown in from the airport there. Reuters could not immediately determine when.
The families of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing have been told the suspect is in US custody, a spokesman for the Scottish Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said on Sunday.
The BBC first reported Mas’ud’s arrest.
The bomb on board the Boeing 747 flying from London to New York City killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground, Britain’s deadliest militant attack ever.
The crime scene of the attack spanned more than 840 square miles (2,175 square kilometers).
In 1991, two other Libyan intelligence agents were charged with the bombing: Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.
During a Scottish trial before a court in Kamp Zeist in the Netherlands, Megrahi was found guilty of the bombing and given a life sentence in 2001. He was later released as he was suffering from cancer and died at his home in Tripoli in 2012.
Fhimah was cleared of all charges, but Scottish prosecutors have maintained that Megrahi did not act alone.
In 2020, the United States unsealed criminal charges against Mas’ud, a suspected third conspirator, adding that he had worked as a technical expert in building explosives.
At the time of the bombing, U.S. investigators discovered evidence that one of the possible suspects went by the name of “Abu Agela Masud,” but they were unable to locate him, according to an affidavit from an FBI agent supporting the government’s criminal government. complaint.
Decades later, the FBI obtained a copy of an interview of Mas’ud on September 12, 2012, conducted by a Libyan law enforcement official while he was in custody there.
During the interview, Mas’ud “admitted that he built the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 and that he collaborated with Megrahi and Fhimah to carry out the plot,” the FBI agent’s statement said.
Mas’ud also told the interviewer that he was involved in other similar plots, and said the bombing was ordered by the Libyan intelligence leadership.
He also said that former Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi, who was killed by rebels in October 2011, “thanked him and other members of the team for their successful attack on the United States.”
The agent who filed the statement said the FBI was able to confirm Mas’ud’s confession during the investigation.
The handover of Mas’ud for trial in the West sparked infighting among Libyan politicians, who are divided between a parliament in the east of the country and a government of national unity in Tripoli.
Some eastern lawmakers accused Prime Minister Abdulhamd al-Dbeibah of complying with Washington’s wishes despite the lack of an extradition treaty.
Reporting by Alistair Smout in London and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Additional reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom; Edited by Raissa Kasolowsky, Frances Kerry, Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Wallis
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