A man accused of building the bomb that downed a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, 34 years ago, killing 270 people, has been taken into custody by the US.
The US Department of Justice said on Sunday that it had taken into custody Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, a former Libyan intelligence officer who allegedly made the bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie in 1988 while flying from London to New York.
The justice department said that Mas’ud was expected to make his first appearance in the US district court for the District of Columbia, but did not give a date.
The US in 2020 charged Mas’ud with deadly destruction of an aircraft and deadly destruction of a vehicle via explosives.
The attack led to criminal charges in Scotland and the US against two other Libyan intelligence officers as part of a joint investigation that the DoJ at the time said was “unprecedented in its scope”.
The bombing, allegedly carried out on behalf of the Muammer Gaddafi regime, killed citizens from 21 countries. Until September 11 2001, it was the largest terrorist attack on US civilians in history. Of the nearly 300 victims, 190 were Americans and 43 were British. According to US legal filings, the crime scene extended across more than 840 square miles.
According to US court documents, Mas’ud worked for Libya’s External Security Organization, the intelligence service used by Tripoli to persecute Libyan dissidents beyond its borders and to perform terrorist attacks against other countries. Mas’ud held several roles at the organisation, including as a technical expert in crafting explosives.
In December 1988, Mas’ud allegedly dropped off a suitcase in a Maltese airport that held a bomb whose timer he had set for the following day, the DoJ said. The suitcase was allegedly checked in by another Libyan intelligence officer.
Mas’ud then returned to Libya, where he allegedly met with a senior Libyan intelligence officer and later Gaddafi, who thanked him and others for carrying out the plan successfully. The former leader also thanked them “for carrying out a great national duty against the Americans,” according to the DoJ.
The other two Libyan officers stood trial before a special Scottish court established at Camp Zeist, Netherlands, starting in 2000. One was convicted on all charges while the other was acquitted.
Years later, the FBI came across an interview with Mas’ud in which he admitted to making the explosive that destroyed the Pan Am flight and to collaborating with the pair, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit. In the confession corroborated by investigators, Mas’ud also confirmed that the bombing was ordered by leaders in Libya’s intelligence.
Mas’ud could not be reached for comment.