U.S. Justice Department charges Libyan in 1988 Lockerbie airplane bombing

Remigio Civitarese
Dicembre 21, 2020

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, majority Americans.

In presenting new charges, the Justice Department is revisiting a case that deepened the chasm between the United States and Libya, laid bare the threat of worldwide terrorism more than a decade before the September 11 attacks and produced global investigations and punishing sanctions. Though Barr had not appeared at a news conference in months, he led this one two days before his departure as something of a career bookend.

Attorney General William Barr at a news conference announcing the Lockerbie charges at the Justice Department in Washington.

According to the statement, "Our message to other terrorists around the world is this - you will not succeed - if you attack Americans, no matter where you are, no matter how long it takes, you will be pursued to the ends of the earth until justice is done".

Flight 103 was en route from London to NY when a bomb blew the plane up over Lockerbie, Scotland.

A breakthrough in the investigation came in 2016 when United States officials learned that Masud was in Libyan custody after the collapse of the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

In 1992, the UN Security Council imposed arms sales and air travel sanctions against Libya to prod Gaddafi into surrendering the two suspects. After Libya refused to extradite the men to the USA, it was finally agreed upon that they could be tried by a Scottish court in the neutral Netherlands.

Lockerbie wreckage
More than 4 million pieces of wreckage were collected by investigators

In addition to the bombing, the affidavit says that Masud also admitted to having a role in other attacks, including the 1986 bombing of the La Belle Discotheque in West Berlin, Germany, which left two U.S. service members dead. Libya ultimately turned them over for prosecution before a panel of Scottish judges sitting in a Netherlands court.

When Barr served as attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration, the United States charged two Libyan men in the bombing: Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah. He later died in Tripoli.

The Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie less than an hour after takeoff from London on December 21, 1988, en route to New York City and then Detroit. Among the Americans on board were 35 Syracuse University students flying home for Christmas after a semester overseas. The statement also claims that Masud was involved in the April 5, 1986, bombing of the LaBelle Discotheque in West Berlin, Germany, which resulted in the deaths of two United States servicemen.

The sanctions were later lifted after Libya arranged a $2.7bn compensation deal with the victims' families and formally accepted responsibility for the bombing.

Besides Barr, another key figure in the Lockerbie investigation was Robert Mueller, who was the Justice Department's criminal chief at the time the first set of charges was announced.

The Russia probe produced a rift between the men after Mueller complained to Barr that he had mischaracterised the gravity of his team's findings in a letter that he made public before the investigative report was released.

Asked by a reporter, Barr said he did not invite Mueller to Monday's news conference.

Altre relazioniGrafFiotech

Discuti questo articolo

Segui i nostri GIORNALE