WASHINGTON — A Libyan intelligence official accused of making the bomb that introduced down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 in a world act of terrorism has been taken into U.S. custody and can face federal expenses in Washington, the Justice Division mentioned Sunday.
The arrest of Abu Agela Masud Kheir Al-Marimi is a milestone within the decades-old investigation into the assault that killed 259 individuals within the air and 11 on the bottom. American authorities in December 2020 introduced expenses in opposition to Masud, who was in Libyan custody on the time. Although he’s the third Libyan intelligence official charged within the U.S. in reference to the assault, he can be the primary to look in an American courtroom for prosecution.
The New York-bound Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie lower than an hour after takeoff from London on Dec. 21, 1988. Residents from 21 totally different international locations have been killed. Among the many 190 Individuals on board have been 35 Syracuse College college students flying residence for Christmas after a semester overseas.
The bombing laid naked the specter of worldwide terrorism greater than a decade earlier than the Sept. 11 assaults. It produced world investigations and punishing sanctions whereas spurring calls for for accountability from victims of these killed. The college’s present chancellor, Kent Syverud, mentioned in an announcement that the arrest was a big growth within the lengthy course of “to convey these chargeable for this despicable act to justice.”
The announcement of expenses in opposition to Masud on Dec. 21, 2020, got here on the thirty second anniversary of the bombing and within the closing days of the tenure of then-Legal professional Common William Barr, who in his first stint as legal professional common within the early Nineteen Nineties had introduced felony expenses in opposition to two different Libyans intelligence officers.
The Libyan authorities initially balked at turning over the 2 males, Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, earlier than finally surrendering them for prosecution earlier than a panel of Scottish judges sitting within the Netherlands as a part of a particular association.
The Justice Division mentioned Masud would seem quickly in a federal courtroom in Washington, the place he faces two felony counts associated to the explosion.
U.S. officers didn’t say how Masud got here to be taken into U.S. custody, however late final month, native Libyan media reported that Masud had been kidnapped by armed males on Nov. 16 from his residence in Tripoli, the capital. That reporting cited a household assertion that accused Tripoli authorities of being silent on the kidnapping.
In November 2021, Najla Mangoush, the overseas minister for the nation’s Tripoli-based authorities, informed the BBC in an interview that “we, as a authorities, are very open by way of collaboration on this matter,” when requested whether or not an extradition was doable.
Torn by civil warfare since 2011, Libya is split between rival governments within the east and west, every backed by worldwide patrons and quite a few armed militias on the bottom. Militia teams have amassed nice wealth and energy from kidnappings and their involvement in Libya’s profitable human trafficking commerce
A breakthrough within the investigation got here when U.S. officers in 2017 obtained a replica of an interview that Masud, a longtime explosives skilled for Libya’s intelligence service, had given to Libyan regulation enforcement in 2012 after being taken into custody following the collapse of the federal government of the nation’s chief, Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
In that interview, U.S. officers mentioned, Masud admitted constructing the bomb within the Pan Am assault and dealing with two different conspirators to hold it out. He additionally mentioned the operation was ordered by Libyan intelligence and that Gadhafi thanked him and different members of the staff after the assault, in response to an FBI affidavit filed within the case.
That affidavit mentioned Masud informed Libyan regulation enforcement that he flew to Malta to satisfy al-Megrahi and Fhimah. He handed Fhimah a medium-sized Samsonite suitcase containing a bomb, having already been instructed to set the timer in order that the gadget would explode precisely 11 hours later, in response to the doc. He then flew to Tripoli, the FBI mentioned.
Al-Megrahi was convicted within the Netherlands whereas Fhimah was acquitted of all expenses. Al-Megrahi was given a life sentence, however Scottish authorities launched him on humanitarian grounds in 2009 after he was recognized with prostate most cancers. He later died in Tripoli, nonetheless protesting his innocence.
In saying expenses in opposition to Masud in 2020, Barr mentioned the U.S. and Scotland would use “each possible and applicable means” to convey him to trial.
“In the end, this man chargeable for killing Individuals and lots of others will probably be topic to justice for his crimes,” Barr mentioned on the time.
Scotland’s Crown Workplace and Procurator Fiscal Service on Sunday introduced the arrest as nicely, saying in an announcement that “the households of these killed within the Lockerbie bombing have been informed that the suspect is in U.S. custody.”
The assertion added that “Scottish prosecutors and police, working with U.Ok. authorities and U.S. colleagues, will proceed to pursue this investigation, with the only real purpose of bringing those that acted together with al-Megrahi to justice.”
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