A Libyan man has been taken into US custody on accusations of being involved in making the bomb that destroyed a commercial Pan Am flight in 1988, an act of terrorism that killed 270 people.
After a decadelong investigation, US authorities arrested alleged bomb-maker Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir al-Marimi, the Department of Justice said in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Sunday. The jet’s crash in Lockerbie, Scotland, was the deadliest attack on UK soil in history, and families of the victims — who included 190 Americans as well as people from 20 other countries — have sought accountability for decades.
In December 2020, on the 32nd anniversary of the attack, US officials announced they had filed criminal charges against Mas’ud for his role in the bombing.
“There is no question that the Pan Am 103 attack was aimed at the United States, and this heinous assault lives in infamy in the collective memory of the American people,” then–attorney general William Barr said at the time.
The Pan Am flight from London to New York was destroyed in an explosion less than an hour after takeoff, and it crashed onto UK soil on Dec. 21, 1988. Among the victims was a group of 35 Syracuse University students, who were returning home to the US after studying abroad.
According to the previously filed charges, Mas'ud built the bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 and worked with two other Libyan intelligence officials, Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, to carry out the bombing. Megrahi was convicted in an international court in 2001, and Fhimah was acquitted.
In an affidavit supporting the 2020 charges, an FBI agent said Mas’ud admitted to building the bomb in 2012 while in Libyan custody.
According to the affidavit, Mas’ud met with Fhimah and Megrahi at Luqa Airport in Malta to deliver the bomb, which was placed on board a flight to Frankfurt in what was then West Germany. They planned to transfer it onto the Pan Am flight at Heathrow Airport in London.
Mas’ud set a timer device on the bomb to explode while the Pan Am flight was in the air the next day, the affidavit said.
In addition to the 259 passengers and crew on board, 11 more people were killed by the plane's wreckage in Lockerbie.
A spokesperson for the DOJ told Buzzfeed that Mas’ud is expected to make his initial appearance in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.