Suspect in 1988 Lockerbie bombing now in U.S. custody

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Washington — Authorities in Scotland and the US said on Sunday that the Libyan man suspected of making the bomb who wrecked a passenger jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 is now in US custody.

A Justice Department spokesman confirmed that the US had taken Abu Agila Mohammad Masud into custody and that “he is expected to make his first appearance in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.”

The Scottish Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service said in a statement: “The families of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing have been informed that the suspect Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi is in US custody.”

Pan Am Flight 103, en route from London to New York, exploded over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 people on board the plane and another 11 on the ground. It remains the deadliest terror attack on British soil.

Kara Weipz, president and spokesperson for the Pan Am Flight 103 Victims group whose brother was killed in the bombing, said Masud’s arrest was “a great achievement for the families and justice at last for our loved ones who were innocent.”

“It is one of the most important things for the families and for all of us to have one of the people responsible for the murder of our loved ones stand trial in the US,” Weipz said. “The number of people involved — we kept it at the forefront of six administrations.”

letkey.jpg
Police view the wreckage of the Pan Am plane that exploded and crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 22, 1988.

Roy Letkey/AFP/Getty Images


In 2001, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of bombing the flight. He was the only person convicted of the attack. He lost one appeal and left another before being released on compassionate grounds in 2009 because he was terminally ill with cancer. He died in Libya in 2012, still protesting his innocence.

“Scottish prosecutors and police, in co-operation with the British government and US colleagues, will continue this investigation with the sole aim of bringing to justice those who acted in conjunction with al-Megrahi,” the Crown Office added.

Masud had previously been given a 10-year prison sentence in Libya for making a bomb used in a separate attack. The US announced charges against him in 2020, on the 32nd anniversary of the Lockerbie attack, and requested his extradition. The charges were largely based on a confession Masud made to Libyan authorities in 2012, as well as his travel records, which allegedly linked him to the crime.

“Finally, this man responsible for killing Americans and many others will be brought to justice for his crimes,” William Barr, then-Attorney General, said at a news conference.

In a statement to CBS News, Barr said he told the victims’ families “30 years ago that we would do everything we can to bring the perpetrators to justice. During my last weeks in office in 2020, I pushed so hard – it was unfinished business. We announced charges just before I left and began initial contacts with Libyans.”

“It is critical that terrorists know they will be tracked down and punished, however long it takes,” Barr added.

A breakthrough in the investigation came when U.S. officials received a copy in 2017 of an interview Masud, a longtime explosives expert for Libyan intelligence, gave to Libyan law enforcement in 2012 after he was taken into custody following the regime’s collapse. Libyan intelligence. the country’s leader, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

In that interview, US officials said, Masud admitted that he built the bomb during the Pan Am attack and collaborated with two other conspirators to carry it off. He also said the operation was ordered by Libyan intelligence and that Gaddafi thanked him and other members of the team after the attack, according to an FBI statement filed in the case.

While Masud is now the third Libyan intelligence official to be charged in the US in connection with the Lockerbie bombing, he would be the first to stand trial in a US courtroom.

US officials have not said how Masud was taken into US custody, but in late November local Libyan media reported that Masud was abducted by gunmen from his residence in Tripoli, the capital, on November 16. That report cited a family statement accusing Tripoli authorities of remaining silent about the kidnapping.

In November 2021, Najla Mangoush, the foreign minister of the country’s Tripoli-based government, told the BBC in an interview that “we as a government are very open about cooperating on this issue”, when asked whether an extradition was possible.

Libya has been torn apart by civil war since 2011 and is divided between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by international patrons and numerous armed militias on the ground. Militia groups have amassed great wealth and power through kidnappings and their involvement in Libya’s lucrative human trafficking business.

Margaret Brennan, Andy Triay, Robert Legare, Catherine Herridge and Clare Hymes contributed reporting.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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