34 years ago on the hills of Scotland.
The FBI arrested a Libyan operative charged in the 1988 bombing of a U.S. jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland — one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in American history. He is being extradited to the U. Authorities in Scotland on December 2022. The Libyan man suspected of making the bomb that destroyed a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 is in U.S. custody.
For the families of the other 270 people murdered 34 years ago, this was overwhelming news.
Terrorist acts targeting U.S. citizens at home and abroad fall under the international operations of FBI. So the FBI and Department of Justice joined forces with Scottish prosecutors and police to investigate the bombing.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said
Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir al-Marimi is finally in U.S. custody to face justice for his alleged role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. I want to thank the Justice Department for its tireless work to pursue him. We will always remember the victims of this heinous act.
The Lockerbie bombing was the single deadliest terror attack in the history of the United Kingdom, and the second deadliest for Americans after Sept. 11, 2001. The plane had taken off from London and was on its way to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
Citizens from 21 countries were killed. Among the 190 Americans lost were 35 Syracuse University students returning home to the United States for the holidays after a semester studying abroad. Of the 43 victims from the United Kingdom, eleven residents of Lockerbie, Scotland perished on the ground as fiery debris from the falling aircraft destroyed an entire city block of homes. The international terrorist attack, planned and executed by Libyan intelligence operatives, was considered the largest international terrorist attack in both the United States and the United Kingdom at the time.
One man has been convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. Another, who is accused of making the bomb, is in U.S. custody.
Here’s what to know about the bombing and the charges filed.
Abu Agila Masud, the man accused of making the bomb that blew up a Pan Am jet over Scotland in 1988, has been formally charged in a US court
The Justice Department has alleged that Mas’ud, who is from Tunisia and Libya, confessed his crimes to a Libyan law enforcement official back in September 2012.
After Lockerbie Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qaddafi refused to turn over the two suspects. As a result, the United States and the UN Security Council imposed economic sanctions against Libya. In 1998 Qaddafi faccepted a proposal to extradite the men. In 2001, after an investigation that involved interviewing 15,000 people and examining 180,000 pieces of evidence, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was convicted of the bombing and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Lamin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted. The Libyan government agreed to pay damages to the families of the victims of the attack.
How did Masud end up in US custody?
The Lockerbie attack launched a decades-long international manhunt for the bomb-makers.
In 2020, U.S. authorities discovered that Libyan authorities had apprehended Mas’ud, a former Libyan intelligence operative, and interviewed him about his involvement in the Lockerbie bombing. Mas’ud admitted to building the bomb that brought down the plane.
According to FBI the Lockerbie case was one of the most complex investigations Agency have ever worked on. FBI interviewed more than 10,000 people around the world and analyzed about 845 square smiles of scattered debris. What helped to connect the dots was in the rubble. They found two fragments that helped trace the Lockerbie bomb to a radio inside an item of luggage and the explosive’s timer to a shirt.
Sharing information and paying attention to even the smallest detail helped solve that case. That was another very important lesson of Lockerbie. For families of Lockerbie bombing victims there was never closure.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s statement explains importance and determination of a government against terrorism. “ … All of us at the Justice Department reaffirm that no amount of time or distance will stand in the way of our efforts to honor the victims of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing and to pursue justice on their behalf.”