Attorney General Bill Barr announced new criminal charges Monday in a terrorism investigation that he had initially overseen three decades ago during his first stint as head of the Justice Department under former President George H.W. Bush.
Monday marked the 32nd anniversary of the deadly 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and served as a fitting backdrop to the announcement of criminal charges against Abu Agila Muhammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, the suspected Libyan bombmaker behind the explosion, NPR reported.
Masud faces two criminal charges: the destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and the destruction of a vehicle by means of an explosive resulting in death. Masud is currently being held in Libyan custody and the U.S. will seek his extradition so that he can stand trial in the United States.
The charges against Masud also represent a closing of the book on the Pan Am 103 incident for Barr, who filed charges against two Libyan intelligence officials in 1991, one of whom, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, was convicted and served several years before being diagnosed with cancer and released in 2012 to die at home in Libya three years later.
“No amount of time or distance”
In announcing the charges against Masud at the press conference, Barr recounted how the Boeing 747 had exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on the night of Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew on board — including 190 Americans — and 11 individuals in their homes on the ground below.
“The Lockerbie bombing remains the deadliest single terrorist attack in the history of the United Kingdom, and the second deadliest terrorist attack for Americans — surpassed only by the 9/11 attacks,” Barr said.
He then recalled how evidence was recovered that led to the suspicion that Masud had been involved in the attack — and even personally thanked for his role by then-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi — though he could not be located for many years.
However, following the 2012 fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, Masud was captured and interrogated by Libyan law enforcement, and the information obtained from that interview was given to U.S. officials several years later.
“Let there be no mistake: no amount of time or distance will stop the United States, and its partners in Scotland, from pursuing justice in this case,” Barr said.
Nightclub bombing in Germany
According to Washington, D.C. acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin, in addition to the charges related to the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing, Masud was also charged for his role as the bombmaker in a 1986 bombing at La Belle Discotheque in Berlin, Germany, that had killed two American service members, NPR reported.
The chief constable of Scotland’s police force, Iain Livingstone, called the charges against Masud a “significant development” and vowed to “continue to work closely” with investigators from the U.S. and other nations on the case, according to the BBC.
For those who were old enough to remember that horrific atrocity over Lockerbie, it was an event that will never be forgotten. However, there can now be some sense of closure and justice for those who lost loved ones in the attack as well as for those who, for more than three decades now, have diligently pursued those responsible.