Nearly 34 years after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, the suspect allegedly responsible for making the explosive device has been taken into U.S. custody.
On Sunday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi had been apprehended and will be brought to America to stand trial.
Mas’ud is one of three Libyan intelligence officials charged in connection with the bombing of Flight 103 but will be the first to be brought to the U.S. to face federal charges.
The 747 airliner, headed from London to New York, exploded 38 minutes after takeoff on December 21, 1988, over Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 aboard and 11 others on the ground died. A total of 190 Americans were killed, including 35 Syracuse University students returning from a semester abroad.
In 1999, Libya agreed to hand over two alleged co-conspirators to a Scottish court for prosecution in the Netherlands in a special arrangement.
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison but was released in 2009 on medical grounds. He later died from his ailments. Lamen Khalifa Fhimah was acquitted of all charges.
In 2017, the FBI received a translated copy of a 2012 interview in which Mas’ud confessed to Libyan officials that he made the suitcase bomb that downed Pan Am Flight 103 and received assistance from Megrahi and Fhimah.
He informed Libyan officials he was told to deliver a bomb to Malta, according to the affidavit. He said he flew there with the Samsonite luggage and gave it to Fhimah and Megrahi at Luqa Airport. As instructed, he set the timer for 11 hours. Fhimah put the suitcase on the conveyor belt, according to the affidavit.
Afterward, he flew to Tripoli. According to the affidavit, he was sure his luggage was involved when he heard that an explosion had blown out a U.S. airliner. Later, he and Fhimah met with Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi and others, who “praised them for carrying out a huge national duty against the Americans,” the document says.
The U.S. first announced charges against Mas’ud in December 2020.
“Well over a third of Americans alive today were either not born or not old enough to remember the downing of Pan Am 103,” then-Attorney General William Barr said on the 32nd anniversary of the bombing two years ago. “But for those of us who do remember the tragic event and the iconic images of its aftermath … this is forever seared in our memories.”
Barr said that the U.S. and Scotland would use “every feasible and appropriate means” to bring Mas’ud to trial.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) did not disclose how Mas’ud came to be in U.S. custody. Libyan media reported that Mas’ud was abducted by armed men in mid-November from his home in Tripoli, NBC News reported.
Glen Johnson, the father of one of the victims of Flight 103, was informed of Mas’ud’s arrest on Sunday evening. “This is the one we really wanted to get. He’s the man who built the bomb,” Johnson told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Johnson’s daughter, Beth Ann, was on her way home to celebrate Christmas on the flight that exploded nearly 34 years ago.
Mas’ud will appear in federal court in Washington on two criminal counts linked to the explosion, according to NBC News.
Mas’ud was also accused of the 1986’s LaBelle Discotheque bombing in Berlin, West Germany, according to an affidavit filed in 2020.