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US to announce new charges over 1988 Lockerbie bombing

The New York-bound flight exploded over the Scottish town in 1988.

The wrecked Pan-Am flight in Lockerbie (file photo)
The wrecked Pan-Am flight in Lockerbie (file photo)
Image: PA

THE US DEPARTMENT of Justice is set to unseal new charges in connection with the 1988 Lockerbie bombing in the coming days.

The New York-bound flight exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie less than an hour after take-off from London on 21 December, 1988, killing 270 people.

The attack, caused by a bomb packed into a suitcase, killed 259 people on the plane and 11 on the ground. 

The victims included dozens of American college students and spurred global investigations and sanctions against Libya, which ultimately surrendered intelligence officials wanted in the attacks for prosecution in Europe.

News of the criminal case was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The suspect, Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, is currently held by Libyan authorities and the Wall Street Journal reports that US authorities are seeking his extradition to stand trial in the United States.

The New York Times said Masud’s exact whereabouts are unknown but he was imprisoned in Libya at one point for unrelated crimes.

The Wall Street Journal also said Masud, alleged to have been a top bomb-maker for the late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, is suspected of assembling the device that blew up Pan Am Flight 103.

The announcement of a new prosecution would likely carry personal significance for Attorney General William Barr, who is leaving the position next week, but held the same job when the Justice Department revealed criminal charges nearly 30 years ago.

The head of the Justice Department’s criminal division at the time was Robert Mueller, who went on to serve as FBI director and as special counsel in charge of the investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

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A person familiar with the Justice Department’s plan who was not authorised to discuss it by name confirmed it to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Former Libyan intelligence official Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the bombing, and a second Libyan suspect was acquitted of all charges.

Al-Megrahi was given a life sentence, but Scottish authorities released him on humanitarian grounds in 2009 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He later died in Tripoli.

Contains reporting by © AFP 2020

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