Lockerbie plane bombing suspect taken into US custody

Lockerbie plane bombing suspect taken into US custody
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LONDON/WASHINGTON, December 11 (Reuters) – A Libyan man accused of building the bomb that killed 270 people after it blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988, is in custody in the United States, Scotland and US law enforcement officials said Sunday.

Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi was arrested about two years after former US Attorney General Bill Barr first made the announcement The United States has filed charges against him.

A Justice Department spokesman confirmed to Reuters on Sunday that the United States has custody of the suspect. Mas’ud is expected to appear in court in a federal court in Washington.

Details on the hearing’s schedule are yet to be announced, the spokesman added.

Court documents describe Mas’ud as a veteran bomb maker who joined the intelligence agency of the Libyan External Security Organization in the 1970s and took part in a number of operations outside Libya, attaining the rank of colonel.

The families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing have been told the suspect is in US custody, a spokesman for Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said on Sunday.

The BBC first reported Mas’ud’s arrest.

The bomb aboard the Boeing 747 flying from London to New York City killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground, the deadliest militant attack ever in Britain.

The attack scene covered more than 840 square miles (2,175 square kilometers).

In 1991, two other Libyan intelligence operatives were accused of the bombing: Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.

At a Scottish trial in a court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, Megrahi was found guilty of the bombing and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001. He was later released because he was suffering from cancer and died at his home in Tripoli in 2012.

Fhimah was acquitted of all charges but Scottish prosecutors have claimed Megrahi did not act alone.

In 2020, the United States unsealed criminal charges against Mas’ud, an alleged third party conspirator, adding that he worked as a technical expert building explosive devices.

At the time of the bombing, U.S. investigators uncovered evidence that one of the possible suspects went by the name “Abu Agela Masud,” but were unable to locate him, according to an affidavit by an FBI agent in support of the government’s criminal complaint.

Decades later, the FBI obtained a copy of a Sept. 12/12/2012 interview with Mas’ud conducted by a Libyan police officer while he was in custody there.

During the interview, “Mas’ud admitted to building the bomb that downed Pan Am Flight 103 and working with Megrahi and Fhimah to carry out the conspiracy,” the FBI agent’s statement said.

Mas’ud also told the interviewer that he was involved in other similar schemes and said the bombing was ordered by the Libyan intelligence leadership.

He also said former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed by rebels in October 2011, “thanked him and other members of the team for their successful attack on the United States.”

The agent who filed the statement said the FBI was able to confirm Mas’ud’s confession during its investigation.

Reporting by Alistair Smout in London and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Edited by Raissa Kasolowsky, Frances Kerry, Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Wallis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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