The US Department of Justice announced Monday that a pair of charges had been filed against Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, who prosecutors allege made the explosive device that downed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The DoJ’s announcement notes that Masud has been charged with single counts of destruction of aircraft resulting in death and destruction of vehicle used in interstate or foreign commerce by means of an explosive resulting in death.
Masud is currently in Libyan custody and serving a separate 10-year sentence in Tripoli. US officials have expressed their intentions to seek his extradition; however, it’s unclear if Libyan officials will be allowing Masud’s transfer to the US. Barr noted during a conference that the possibility of a trial in the US seemed “very good.”
Prosecutors revealed through a 26-page affidavit from FBI agent Rachel Otto that Masud was tapped in the winter of 1988 by an unidentified Libyan intelligence official to take part in the construction of a bomb. Masud had been told to travel to Malta, where he met up with two Libyan intelligence operatives - Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah - who later directed him to set the timer on the explosive device so that it would detonate 11 hours later, according to the document.
Masud allegedly planted the ticking device inside a Samsonite suitcase that was previously provided by the unidentified Libyan intelligence official and met with Megrahi and Fhimah at Malta’s Luqa Airport on December 21, 1988. Masud reportedly handed the suitcase to Fhimah, who then placed the suitcase on a conveyor belt. The explosive device flew from Malta to West Germany and then to England, where it was transferred onto doomed Pan Am Flight 103 at London’s Heathrow Airport.
After making the drop, Masud allegedly returned to Libya and after a few days met with the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who “thanked him and other members of the team for their successful attack on the United States,” according to the affidavit. Months later, Gadhafi reportedly reiterated his gratitude to both Masud and Fhimah.
The latest revelations were reportedly made during a 2012 interrogation by Libyan authorities trying to determine whether Masud had committed any crimes against the North African country during the 2011 Libyan crisis. The claims were later corroborated through evidence made available by Scottish and American officials throughout the years.
In a statement accompanying the DoJ’s announcement, Barr indicated that the charges are the result of work done by officials 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” under the direction of Gadhafi.
“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 only individual who has been convicted for the 1988 bombing is Megrahi, who was later released on compassionate grounds after he was diagnosed with cancer. Megrahi died in 2012 and maintained his innocence. His family is currently appealing his conviction. Fhimah was indicted in the incident but was acquitted.
The December 1988 bombing killed a total of 270 people, including 190 Americans. Eleven Scottish individuals were killed on the ground as the remnants of the plane fell onto a residential street in Lockerbie, Scotland. The incident is considered one of the deadliest terror attacks in the history of the UK.