Watch: US Justice Department charges Libyan over 1988 Lockerbie bombing
The Justice Department has announced charges against a Libyan man who is alleged to have constructed the bomb that brought down Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270 people.
Charges were filed against Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir al-Marimi, 32 years to the day after the attack on the Boeing 747 en route from London to New York in the run-up to Christmas.
It is one of the final acts as head of the department by the attorney general, William Barr. When he informed Donald Trump of his resignation last week, Mr Barr asked to delay his departure by a week so that he could announce the Lockerbie charges, CNN reported.
During his earlier stint in government under George HW Bush, Mr Barr tasked the then head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, Robert Mueller, to investigate the bombing.
The two men have appeared at annual remembrance ceremonies over the years with the families of the victims.
During the Bush administration, Mr Barr announced charges in 1991 against two other Libyan intelligence-linked men, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifah Fhimah. The US accused them of placing explosives in a portable cassette player packed inside a suitcase on the plane.
Because of the difficulty in bringing them to the US for trial, they were instead tried by a specially convened Scottish court in the Netherlands.
Mr Fhimah was acquitted, but Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Following a cancer diagnosis, Megrahi was released in 2009 and died in 2012.
Mr Mas’ud is in custody in Libya. It is not yet known if he will be brought to the US for trial. Mr Barr said at the press conference on Monday that he expects the current Libyan government to turn him over.
“I would like to publicly and personally express my deepest thanks to the Lord Advocate of Scotland, James Wolffe QC, for the tireless efforts of his dedicated prosecutors from the Crown Office and investigators from Police Scotland," said Mr Barr.
"These charges are the product of decades of hard work by investigators and prosecutors who have remained resolute in their dogged pursuit of justice for our citizens, the citizens of the United Kingdom, and the citizens of the other 19 countries that were murdered by terrorists operating on behalf of the former Muamar Qaddafi regime when they attacked Pan Am flight 103.
“As to all the victims and the families, we cannot take away your pain from your loss, but we can seek justice for you. Our message to other terrorists around the world is this – you will not succeed. If you attack Americans, no matter where you are, no matter how long it takes, you will be pursued to the ends of the earth until justice is done.”
The criminal complaint filed today charges Mr Mas’ud with destruction of an aircraft resulting in death, as well as destruction of a vehicle by means of an explosive resulting in death.
An affidavit in support of the criminal complaint says that the External Security Organisation (ESO) was the Libyan intelligence service through which Libya conducted acts of terrorism against other nations and repressed the activities of overseas dissidents.
Mr Mas’ud worked in various capacities for the ESO, including as a technical expert in building explosive devices from approximately 1973 to 2011.
He is also charged in connection with the 5 April 1986 bombing of the La Belle Discotheque in West Berlin, Germany, which killed two US service personnel and a Turkish woman, and seriously injured many more.
Lockerbie remains the worst terrorist atrocity to befall the UK, and America’s second worst after 9/11.
All 243 passengers and 16 crew on the airplane were killed, as well as 11 residents of the town of Lockerbie. Of those who died, 190 were American.
In a statement, the director of the FBI, Chris Wray, said: “Today’s announcement should remind the world that when Americans are harmed, the FBI and the United States government will never stop pursuing justice for our citizens, no matter where that takes us, how long it takes us to get there, or how difficult the road might be.”
Watch: US attorney general on new Lockerbie charge