The decade's most triggering comedy
The Libyan man suspected of making the bomb that took down a commercial flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270 people, is in U.S. custody after more than three decades, authorities said Sunday.
Details involving Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi’s handover by Libyan officials were not divulged, but he is due to appear in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as early as this week. Some 190 of the victims were Americans.
“The United States has taken custody of alleged Pan Am flight 103 bombmaker Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir Al-Marimi,” a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said in a statement.
Families of those killed in the bombing have been informed of the arrest, according to Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
“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 office said in a statement.
Pan Am Flight 103 was brought down on Dec. 21, 1988, by a bomb placed in the Boeing 747’s cargo hold in what remains the single deadliest terror attack in the history of the United Kingdom. The plane had departed London and was en route to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Among the dead Americans were 35 students from Syracuse University in New York who were returning home for Christmas after a semester studying abroad. In addition to those aboard the plane, 11 people on the ground were killed.
“For my family — for the memory of my father, Michael Bernstein — and for the families of the other 269 people murdered 34 years ago, this is overwhelming news,” Joe Bernstein said Sunday.
For my family — for the memory of my father, Michael Bernstein — and for the families of the other 269 people murdered 34 years ago, this is overwhelming news. https://t.co/SRnZ32kU9g
— Joe Bernstein (@Bernstein) December 11, 2022
Kara Weipz, president of the group Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 sister of a man who died in the attack, said Masud’s arrest was “an amazing feat for the families, and finally justice for our loved ones who were innocent.”
“To have one of the people responsible for the murder of our loved ones stand trial in the U.S. is one of the most important things to the families and to all of us,” Weipz said. “The amount of people involved — we kept it on the forefront of six administrations.”
Masud was a Libyan intelligence operative who allegedly carried out the attack on the orders of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who in 2003 agreed to a $2.7 billion settlement that provided $10 million to each of the victims’ families. As part of the deal, Libya was removed from the U.S. list of governments that supported terrorism.
Gaddafi was killed in a 2011 uprising after leading the oil-rich nation for more than four decades. After going on the run, he was caught by an angry mob as he hid in a drainage pipe, sodomized with a bayonet, and shot to death in a grim killing recorded on cellphone video.
Two years ago, then-Attorney General William Barr announced Masud, who was then being held in Libya, had been charged with the destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and destruction of a vehicle by means of an explosive resulting in death after Libyan authorities had arrested an interrogated him.
“Let there be no mistake, no amount of time or distance will stop the United States and our Scottish partners in pursuing justice in this case,” Barr said at the time.
For Barr, the arrest represented unfinished business from an investigation he had helped lead during his first stint as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush.
Barr said Libyan authorities had provided a copy of their interview with Masud in which he admitted that he built the bomb with two co-conspirators.
“At long last this man responsible for killing Americans and many others will be subject to justice for his crimes,” Barr said.
Masud, who has also been linked to a 1986 bombing at a Berlin disco that killed three people, allegedly worked with Libyan intelligence operatives to build the bomb, which was hidden in a cassette player among clothes packed into a suitcase.
Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted in 2001 for his role in the bombing, is the only person brought to justice in the attack to date. He was sentenced by a Scottish court to 27 years in prison but was released in 2009 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died in Libya three years later.