A Libyan intelligence official accused of making the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 in an international act of terrorism has been taken into U.S. custody and will face federal charges in Washington, the Justice Department said.
American authorities in December 2020 announced charges against Mas’ud, who was in Libyan custody at the time. Though he is the third Libyan intelligence official charged in the U.S. in connection with the attack, he would be the first to appear in an American courtroom for prosecution.
The New York-bound Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie less than an hour after takeoff from London on Dec. 21, 1988. Citizens from 21 different countries were killed. Among the 190 Americans on board were 35 Syracuse University students flying home for Christmas after a semester abroad.
The bombing laid bare the threat of international terrorism more than a decade before the Sept. 11 attacks. It produced global investigations and punishing sanctions while spurring demands for accountability from victims of those killed.
The Justice Department said Mas’ud would appear soon in a federal court in Washington, where he faces two criminal counts related to the explosion.
U.S. officials did not say how Mas’ud came to be taken into U.S. custody, but late last month, local Libyan media reported that Mas’ud had been kidnapped by armed men on Nov. 16 from his residence in Tripoli, the capital. That reporting cited a family statement that accused Tripoli authorities of being silent on the abduction.
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 government of the country’s leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service on Sunday announced the arrest as well, saying in a statement that “the families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing have been told that the suspect is in U.S. custody.”
The 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.”