WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The United States on Monday unsealed criminal charges against another suspect in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 people, most of them Americans.
The suspect, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, is a Libyan intelligence official charged with two criminal counts related to the bombing. One person was found guilty in Scotland of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 and freed in 2009 on compassionate release grounds.
The announcement of prosecution against an additional individual carries personal significance for Attorney General William Barr, who is leaving the position next week but held the same job when the Justice Department, nearly 30 years ago, revealed criminal charges in the U.S. against the two Libyans. Monday is the 32nd anniversary of the bombing.
Barr said at a Washington, D.C. press conference, “At long last, this man responsible for killing Americans and many others will be subject to justice for his crimes. I am pleased to announce that the United States has filed criminal charges against the third conspirator Abu Agila Masud for his role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.”
Federal prosecutors allege the bombing was ordered by Libyan officials, including former dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Barr said, “After the downing of the aircraft, Qaddafi had personally thanked Masud for the successful attack on the United States. The breakthrough that led to the charges announced today arose when law enforcement learned in 2016 that the third conspirator had been arrested after the collapse of the Qaddafi regime and had been interviewed by Libyan law enforcement.”
When Pan Am Flight 103 exploded, debris scatted across 840 square miles – nearly the entire width of Scotland. 270 people were on the doomed flight, including 190 Americans – 35 of them were Syracuse University students on their way home for the holidays after studying abroad. The attack, caused by a bomb packed into a suitcase, killed 11 on the ground.
Kara Weipz, whose brother Rick Monetti was killed on the flight, also spoke at Monday’s press conference. Weipz said, “The motto of the family members over the past 32 years has been the truth must be known. Today confirms what we believe to be true and [is] a step forward in holding all those responsible for the murders of 270 innocent people on this day in 1988.”
Masud is currently in the custody of Libyan officials. Barr says the U.S. is working on his extradition.
U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. Michael Sherwin added, “Masud armed the device on December 21, 1988 and he gave it to his co-conspirators.”
The head of the Justice Department’s criminal division at the time was Robert Mueller, who went on to serve as FBI director and as special counsel in charge of the investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
Libya refused to extradite the men to the U.S. but ultimately agreed to a deal to put them on trial in the Netherlands.
In 1992, the U.N. Security Council imposed arms sales and air travel sanctions against Libya to prod Col. Muammar Gadhafi, the country’s leader, into surrendering the two suspects. The sanctions were later lifted after Libya agreed to a $2.7 billion compensation deal with the victims’ families.
One man — former Libyan intelligence official Abdel Baset al-Megrahi — was convicted in the Netherlands of the bombing, and a second Libyan suspect was acquitted of all charges. Al-Megrahi was given a life sentence, but Scottish authorities released him on humanitarian grounds in 2009 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He later died in Tripoli.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.