- BBC World News
Exactly 32 years after the Lockerbie bombing, in which 270 people were killed by a bomb on a plane of the American Pan Am airline, its judicial consequences continue to be felt.
This Monday, coinciding with the anniversary of the attack on a Boeing 747 that covered the London – New York route while flying over the town of Lockerbie (Scotland), the United States Attorney General, William Barr, announced new accusations of terrorism against the suspect having manufactured the bomb used in the flight: Abu Agila Mohammad Masud.
The Lockerbie bombing is classified to this day as the “largest terrorist incident” to occur in the United Kingdom and the second deadliest air attack in United States history, only surpassed by 9/11.
190 dand the 270 deceased they were U.S. citizens, including 35 students who were returning to their country for the holidays.
Among the victims there were also 11 people who were not traveling on the plane and who died as a result of the impact of pieces of the aircraft that fell to the ground.
The charges this Monday also mean, in some way, the closing of a cycle for Barr, who era fiscal gJanuary 1991, when charges against two Libyan suspects were first announced.
Back then, during the administration of President George HW Bush, Barr tasked his chief of criminal division, Robert Mueller, with investigating the attack. Mueller is now best known for having served as director of the FBI and for having subsequently led the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Over the years, both Barr and Mueller have participated in memorial events with the families of the victims.
Scottish Police Chief Iain Livingstone said the charges filed Monday were a “significant advance” and that they “will continue to work closely” with US and other international authorities.
What is known of the accused?
Abu Agila Mohammad Masud is the Libyan citizen identified as an alleged bomb-making expert during the government of Muammar Gaddafi.
American journalist Ken Dornstein, whose brother David was aboard the Pan Am plane, traveled to Libya to locate Masud as part of a 2015 television documentary on the US PBS network called My Brother’s Bomber (“The terrorist who killed my brother”).
At the time, Dornstein told the BBC that Masud was “a mysterious figure” who had been named in the initial investigation and that “he was said to be a technical expert.”
The documentary alleged that Masud had also been linked to a 1986 West Berlin nightclub bombing, which killed three people, and that he had been imprisoned in Libya for his role in the uprising that toppled Gaddafi in 2011.
Prosecutor Barr reported that the United States was indicting Masud as a “third conspirator” for his alleged role in the attack.
He said the investigation made a breakthrough after the United States learned that Masud was detained in Libya and that the authorities of that country gave US officials a copy of his interview with the suspect.
Barr said that Masud allegedly built the bomb – working with two other accomplices – and was personally congratulated by Gaddafi for the “successful attack on America.”
The US Attorney’s Office is requesting the extradition of Masud so that he can be tried in that country.
Based on travel records and witness statements, the US Attorney’s Office asserts in the indictment that Masud met with a Libyan intelligence agent before traveling from Tripoli to Malta in December 1988.
Six days later, two other accomplices traveled to Malta, where all three allegedly worked on the bomb.
According to the indictment, the material was later sent hidden in a suitcase that traveled from Malta to Frankfurt and that, finally, ended up in London’s Heathrow airport, where it was mounted on the Pan Am plane.
Investigators claim Masud tuned the device on own December 21 and that that same day he returned to Tripoli.
To date, only one person has been convicted of the Lockerbie bombing: the Libyan Abdelbaset al–Megrahi, who was sentenced in 2001.
Megrahi always defended his innocence and appealed twice against his sentence of 27 years in prison that he did not complete as he died in Libya in 2012, due to cancer after being repatriated for humanitarian reasons.
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