U.S. and Scottish authorities said Sunday that the Libyan man suspected of making the bomb that destroyed a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 is in U.S. custody.
Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said in a statement that "the families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing have been told that the suspect Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi is in U.S. custody."
The U.S. Justice Department confirmed the information, adding that "he is expected to make his initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia." It gave no information on how Mas'ud came to be in U.S. custody.
Pan Am flight 103, traveling from London to New York, exploded over Lockerbie on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 people aboard the plane and another 11 on the ground. It remains the deadliest terror attack on British soil.
The U.S. Justice Department announced new charges against Mas'ud in December 2020, on the 32nd anniversary of the bombing.
Aircraft debris and destroyed houses in the village of Lockerbie are seen from the air following the midair explosion of Pan Ams flight 103, 'Clipper Maid of the Seas in Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, United Kingdom, on Thursday, December 22, 1988. (Photo by Bryn Colton/Getty Images)
"At long last, this man responsible for killing Americans and many others will be subject to justice for his crimes," William Barr, the attorney general at the time, said at a news conference.
In 2001, former Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of bombing the flight. He is to date the only person convicted over the attack. He lost one appeal and abandoned another before being freed in 2009 on compassionate grounds because he was terminally ill with cancer.
He died in Libya in 2012, still protesting his innocence.
A breakthrough in the investigation came when U.S. officials in 2017 received a copy of an interview that Mas'ud, a longtime explosives expert for Libya’s intelligence service, had given to Libyan law enforcement in 2012 after being taken into custody following the collapse of the regime of the country’s leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
In that interview, U.S. officials said, Mas'ud admitted building the bomb in the Pan Am attack and working with two other conspirators to carry it out. He also said the operation was ordered by Libyan intelligence and that Gadhafi thanked him and other members of the team after the attack, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case.
While Mas'ud is now the third Libyan intelligence official charged in the U.S. in connection with the Lockerbie bombing, he would be the first to stand trial in an American courtroom.
The Crown Office in its statement added that "Scottish prosecutors and police, working with U.K. government and U.S. colleagues, will continue to pursue this investigation, with the sole aim of bringing those who acted along with al-Megrahi to justice."