Pan Am flight 103 terrorist suspect in custody for 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland
Civilian aircraft bombing killed 270 people
The United States subsequently requested the publication of an INTERPOL Red Notice
The United States subsequently requested the publication of an INTERPOL Red Notice – as is typical in cases involving foreign fugitives – requesting all INTERPOL member countries to locate and arrest the defendant for the purpose of his extradition or lawful return to the United States to face the charges.
From the time the tragic events occurred in 1988 through the present, the United States and Scotland have jointly pursued justice for all the victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing
From the time the tragic events occurred in 1988 through the present, the United States and Scotland have jointly pursued justice for all the victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing. The partnership will continue throughout the prosecution of Mas’ud.
“Nearly 34 years ago, 270 people, including 190 Americans, were tragically killed in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Since then, American and Scottish law enforcement have worked tirelessly to identify, find, and bring to justice the perpetrators of this horrific attack.
Those relentless efforts over the past three decades led to the indictment and arrest of a former Libyan intelligence operative for his alleged role in building the bomb used in the attack,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
“The defendant is currently in U.S. custody and is facing charges in the United States. This is an important step forward in our mission to honor the victims and pursue justice on behalf of their loved ones.”
At 7:03 pm (GMT), on December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed, almost instantaneously, 38 minutes after takeoff, when a bomb in the forward cargo area exploded. The plane was at 31,000 feet over Lockerbie, Scotland. It had taken off from London-Heathrow and was en route to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
Citizens from 21 countries were killed. Among the 190 Americans lost were 35 Syracuse University students returning home to the United States for the holidays after a semester studying abroad. Of the 43 victims from the United Kingdom, eleven residents of Lockerbie, Scotland perished on the ground as fiery debris from the falling aircraft destroyed an entire city block of homes.
The international terrorist attack, planned and executed by Libyan intelligence operatives, was considered the largest international terrorist attack in both the United States and the United Kingdom at the time.
Immediately after the disaster, Scottish and American law enforcement undertook a joint investigation that was unprecedented in its scope and, in November 1991, it led to criminal charges filed in both countries charging two Libyan intelligence operatives – Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi (Megrahi) and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah (Fhimah) – for their roles in the bombing.
They were tried in a Scottish court sitting in The Netherlands. Fhimah was acquitted. Megrahi was found guilty.
The December 2020 criminal complaint alleged that from approximately 1973 to 2011 Mas’ud worked for the External Security Organization (ESO), the Libyan intelligence service which conducted acts of terrorism against other nations, in various capacities including as a technical expert in building explosive devices.
In the winter of 1988, Mas’ud was directed by a Libyan intelligence official to fly to Malta with a prepared suitcase. There he was met by Megrahi and Fhimah at the airport.
Several days later, Megrahi and Fhimah instructed Mas’ud to set the timer on the device in the suitcase for the following morning, so that the explosion would occur exactly eleven hours later.
Megrahi and Fhimah were both at the airport on the morning of December 21, 1988, and Mas’ud handed the suitcase to Fhimah after Fhimah gave him a signal to do so. Fhimah then placed the suitcase on the conveyor belt. Subsequently, Mas’ud boarded a Libyan flight to Tripoli schedule to take off at 9:00 a.m.
According to the allegations in the complaint, three or four days after returning to Libya, Mas’ud and Megrahi met with a senior Libyan intelligence official, who thanked them for a successful operation.
Approximately three months after that, Mas’ud and Fhimah met with then-Libyan leader Muamar Qaddafi, and others, who thanked them for carrying out a great national duty against the Americans, and Qaddafi added that the operation was a total success.
If convicted, Mas’ud faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. ■