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DOJ: Suspect in 1988 Pam Am Flight 103 Bombing Taken Into U.S. Custody

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed on Dec. 11 that the Libyan intelligence official accused of making a bomb that destroyed a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 was arrested and is in U.S. custody.

“The United States has taken custody of alleged Pan Am Flight 103 bombmaker Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi,” a DOJ spokesperson confirmed to news outlets. “He is expected to make his initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Additional details, including information regarding public access to the initial appearance, will be forthcoming.”

Mas’ud is now the third Libyan intelligence official charged in the United States in connection with the Lockerbie bombing, but he would be the first to stand trial in a U.S. courtroom. It’s not clear if Mas’ud has a lawyer.

Pan Am Flight 103, which was heading to New York from London, exploded over Lockerbie, causing the deaths of all 259 people on board the plane and another 11 on the ground, in what’s considered the deadliest terrorist attack in the United Kingdom. Among the 190 Americans on board were 35 Syracuse University students flying home for Christmas after a semester abroad.

Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service issued a statement on Dec. 11 about Mas’ud’s arrest by saying that “the families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing have been told that the suspect … is in U.S. custody.”

“Scottish prosecutors and police, working with UK government and U.S. colleagues, will continue to pursue this investigation, with the sole aim of bringing those who acted along with al-Megrahi to justice,” the Crown Office said in its statement.

A breakthrough in the investigation came in 2017 when U.S. officials received a copy of an interview that Mas’ud, a longtime explosives expert for Libya’s intelligence service, had given to Libyan law enforcement in 2012 after having been taken into custody following the collapse of the regime of the country’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

In that interview, U.S. officials claimed, Mas’ud admitted to building the bomb in the Pan Am attack and working with two other conspirators to carry it out. He also said the operation was ordered by Libyan intelligence and that Gadhafi thanked him and other members of the team after the attack, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case.

U.S. officials charged Mas’ud two years ago for his alleged involvement. Two others, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah, were accused of placing a bomb inside a tape and radio player that was inside a suitcase on the Pan Am flight.

“At long last, this man responsible for killing Americans and many others will be subject to justice for his crimes,” then-Attorney General Bill Barr said at a news conference in 2020.

Then-Attorney General William Barr is seen in a June 15, 2020, photo. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Other Details

In 2001, Megrahi, who claimed his innocence, was sentenced to 27 years in prison but was released from jail after being diagnosed with cancer; he died in 2012. Fhimah was acquitted in January 2001.

In 2021, Megrahi’s family lost an appeal in a court in Scotland to have his conviction overturned posthumously, citing concerns about the evidence, including doubts about the timer alleged to have detonated the bomb.

Gadhafi-2018270
A file photo of late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi meeting with Tunisian parliamentarians on May 21, 2003. (Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images)

“Megrahi and Fhimah were both at the airport on the morning of Dec. 21, 1988, and Mas’ud handed the suitcase to Fhimah after Fhimah gave him a signal to do so,” the DOJ said in a statement.

“Fhimah then placed the suitcase on the conveyor belt. Masud then left. He was given a boarding pass for a Libyan flight to Tripoli, which was to take off at 9 a.m. Three or four days after returning to Libya, Mas’ud and Megrahi met with a senior Libyan intelligence official, who thanked them for a successful operation.

“Approximately three months after that, Masud and Fhimah met with [Gadhafi], and others, who thanked them for carrying out a great national duty against the Americans, and [Gadhafi] added that the operation was a total success.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jack Phillips

Breaking News Reporter

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Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.


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