Lockerbie bombing suspect details how ‘he helped take down jet’ killing 270

The suspected Lockerbie bombmaker is said to have told investigators how he avoided detection by airport scanners by positioning his explosive device near metal in a suitcase that was timed to go off 11 hours later. 

Abu Agila Masud reportedly told Libyan law enforcement in 2012 how he was also given $500 by Libyan intelligence officials to fill the suitcase containing the explosive with clothes, which traveled on an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt before being transferred with luggage onto Pan Am Flight 103.   

The United States on Monday unsealed criminal charges against Masud, the third alleged conspirator in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people, mostly Americans. 

Former Libyan intelligence officer Masud’s alleged confession was made after being taken into custody following the collapse of the regime of the country’s leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi. US officials received a copy of the interview in 2017.

Masud is said to have admitted building the bomb in the Pan Am attack and working with two other conspirators to carry it out and said the operation was ordered by Libyan intelligence. 

He said he positioned the bomb’s detonator and timer close to the metallic parts of the suitcase to throw off airport scanners and get the luggage on board.   

He also revealed that he had been summoned by a Libyan intelligence official to a meeting in Tripoli and asked whether the ‘suitcases’ were finished.

Mohammed Abouajela Masud (second left) sits behind bars during a hearing at a courtroom in Tripoli November 16, 2014. He is said to have told investigators how he positioned the device near metal in the suitcase to avoid detection by airport scanners

Mohammed Abouajela Masud (second left) sits behind bars during a hearing at a courtroom in Tripoli November 16, 2014. He is said to have told investigators how he positioned the device near metal in the suitcase to avoid detection by airport scanners

Mohammed Abouajela Masud (second left) sits behind bars during a hearing at a courtroom in Tripoli November 16, 2014. He is said to have told investigators how he positioned the device near metal in the suitcase to avoid detection by airport scanners

Abu Agila Masud is said to have told Libyan law enforcement in 2012 how he was also given $500 to fill the suitcase containing the explosive with clothes. Evidence presented at trial included a replica of the suitcase that contained the bomb, pictured

Abu Agila Masud is said to have told Libyan law enforcement in 2012 how he was also given $500 to fill the suitcase containing the explosive with clothes. Evidence presented at trial included a replica of the suitcase that contained the bomb, pictured

Abu Agila Masud is said to have told Libyan law enforcement in 2012 how he was also given $500 to fill the suitcase containing the explosive with clothes. Evidence presented at trial included a replica of the suitcase that contained the bomb, pictured 

Evidence presented at trial included a reproduction of the plastic explosive placed inside a cassette recorder. Former Libyan intelligence officer Masud's alleged confession was made after being taken into custody following the collapse of the regime of the country's leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi. US officials received a copy of the interview in 2017

Evidence presented at trial included a reproduction of the plastic explosive placed inside a cassette recorder. Former Libyan intelligence officer Masud's alleged confession was made after being taken into custody following the collapse of the regime of the country's leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi. US officials received a copy of the interview in 2017

Evidence presented at trial included a reproduction of the plastic explosive placed inside a cassette recorder. Former Libyan intelligence officer Masud’s alleged confession was made after being taken into custody following the collapse of the regime of the country’s leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi. US officials received a copy of the interview in 2017

An FBI affidavit unsealed Monday says Masud told Libyan law enforcement that he met with Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah in Malta several days before the Dec. 21, 1988 bombing.     

It was there that is said to have been given the money to buy the clothes and his instructions on the bomb. 

Masud said he then met Fhimah at a Malta airport where he handed over the medium-sized Samsonite suitcase containing the explosive, with a timer set so that the device would explode about 11 hours later, according to the document. 

He then flew to Tripoli, the FBI said. 

The affidavit said Masud also admitted the atrocity had been ‘ordered by Libyan intelligence leadership’ and said that Gadhafi had ‘thanked him and other members of the team for their successful attack on the United States’. 

Masud has been charged with two criminal counts related to the bombing. He is in Libyan custody, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said, adding that U.S. officials are hopeful that Libya will allow Masud to be tried in the United States.

The United States on Monday unsealed criminal charges against Masud, the third alleged conspirator in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people, mostly Americans

The United States on Monday unsealed criminal charges against Masud, the third alleged conspirator in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people, mostly Americans

The United States on Monday unsealed criminal charges against Masud, the third alleged conspirator in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people, mostly Americans

The Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie less than an hour after takeoff from London on December 21, 1988, en route to New York City and then Detroit. Among the 190 Americans on board were 35 Syracuse University students flying home for Christmas

The Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie less than an hour after takeoff from London on December 21, 1988, en route to New York City and then Detroit. Among the 190 Americans on board were 35 Syracuse University students flying home for Christmas

The Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie less than an hour after takeoff from London on December 21, 1988, en route to New York City and then Detroit. Among the 190 Americans on board were 35 Syracuse University students flying home for Christmas

An FBI affidavit unsealed Monday says Masud told Libyan law enforcement that he flew to Malta to meet Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi, left, and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, right. Megrahi was found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 by a Scottish court which convened in the Netherlands. The Scottish court found Fhimah not guilty

An FBI affidavit unsealed Monday says Masud told Libyan law enforcement that he flew to Malta to meet Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi, left, and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, right. Megrahi was found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 by a Scottish court which convened in the Netherlands. The Scottish court found Fhimah not guilty

An FBI affidavit unsealed Monday says Masud told Libyan law enforcement that he flew to Malta to meet Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi, left, and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, right. Megrahi was found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 by a Scottish court which convened in the Netherlands. The Scottish court found Fhimah not guilty

Three decades of doubt: 30 years later there are still unanswered questions about Lockerbie

December 21, 1988

Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit, via London and New York, blows up over Lockerbie in Scotland. A total of 270 people died

November 1991

US Attorney General Bill Barr announces charges against Libyans Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khailifa Fhimah of the bombing. However, Libyan authorities deny involvement

January 1995 

MPs demand an inquiry after US intelligence suggests Iran was behind the bombing, instead of Libya

January 2001 

Megrahi was convicted of mass murder while Fhimah is found not guilty

August 2003 

The UN lifts sanctions on Libya. Blame was accepted in Tripoli and the government compensates families of the victims

August 2009

Megrahi is freed after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.  He did not die until 2012  

May 2018

A review of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s conviction for the bombing is to be carried out by the Scottish Criminal Cases Commission  

November 2018 

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission says there was no criminality in the handling of the Megrahi case, as his lawyers had claimed

December 2020

US Attorney General Bill Barr announces new charges against a third suspect, Abu Agila Masud, accused of assembling the bomb

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The charges were announced on the 32nd anniversary of the bombing and in the final news conference of Barr’s tenure, underscoring his personal attachment to a case that unfolded during his first stint at the Justice Department. 

The Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie less than an hour after takeoff from London on December 21, 1988, en route to New York City and then Detroit. 

Among the 190 Americans on board were 35 Syracuse University students flying home for Christmas after a semester abroad. 

‘No amount of time or distance will stop the United States and our Scottish partners from pursuing justice in this case,’ Barr told a news conference Monday.

The Justice Department said Masud carried the bomb that eventually blew up the plane from Libya to Malta in a suitcase and then set the device’s timer.

It said that from around 1973-2011 Masud worked for Libyan intelligence, including as a bomb-making expert. It alleged Masud was involved in the 1986 bombing of the LaBelle Discotheque in West Berlin, Germany that killed two U.S. service members.

In 1991, the two other alleged Libyan intelligence operatives, al-Megrahi and Fhimah, were charged in the Lockerbie bombing. 

Megrahi was found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001 by a Scottish court which convened in the Netherlands. 

He was jailed in Scotland but later was allowed to return to Libya on compassionate grounds before dying of cancer in 2012. The Scottish court found Fhimah not guilty.

Barr said the breakthrough that led to charges against Masud came after the U.S. learned in 2016 that he ‘had been arrested after the collapse of the Qaddafi regime and interviewed by a Libyan law enforcement officer in September 2012.’

The Justice Department said late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi personally thanked Masud and Fhimah for attacking the American target, and that Qaddafi described the operation as a total success.

In presenting new charges, the Justice Department is revisiting a case that deepened the chasm between the United States and Libya, laid bare the threat of international terrorism more than a decade before the September 11 attacks and produced global investigations and punishing sanctions.  

It wasn’t until 2003 that Gadhafi and Libya accepted responsibility for the Pan Am disaster, with the country reaching a $2.7 billion compensation deal with the victims’ families. 

Gadhafi agreed to renounce terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, starting a rapprochement that began the following year with the re-opening of embassies. 

Sanctions were lifted and, in 2006, the Bush administration removed Libya from the U.S. blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.

The warming of ties did not last long, however, and disintegrated quickly after the Arab Spring began to take hold across the region in 2011. 

In 2012, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stephens, and three other Americans were killed on attacks on American diplomatic facilities in Benghazi. The U.S. closed its embassy in Tripoli in 2014.

Masud was a top bomb-maker for late Libyan dictator Muammar Gadafi (pictured), reports claim. He is alleged to have assembled the device which blew up over Scotland in 1988

Masud was a top bomb-maker for late Libyan dictator Muammar Gadafi (pictured), reports claim. He is alleged to have assembled the device which blew up over Scotland in 1988

Masud was a top bomb-maker for late Libyan dictator Muammar Gadafi (pictured), reports claim. He is alleged to have assembled the device which blew up over Scotland in 1988

Victims, pictured, of the bombing included dozens of American college students

Victims, pictured, of the bombing included dozens of American college students

Victims, pictured, of the bombing included dozens of American college students

Besides Barr, another key figure in the Lockerbie investigation was Robert Mueller, who was the Justice Department’s criminal chief at the time the first set of charges was announced. 

Mueller would later become FBI director and special counsel in charge of the investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

The Russia probe produced a rift between the men after Mueller complained to Barr that he had mischaracterized the gravity of his team’s findings in a letter that he made public before the investigative report was released.

On Monday, Barr finally got to cap off perhaps the most extensive terror probe of his career with the indictment against Masud, two days before he leaves office on Wednesday

On Monday, Barr finally got to cap off perhaps the most extensive terror probe of his career with the indictment against Masud, two days before he leaves office on Wednesday

On Monday, Barr finally got to cap off perhaps the most extensive terror probe of his career with the indictment against Masud, two days before he leaves office on Wednesday

Who was Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi?  

Former Libyian intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing which claimed 270 lives

Former Libyian intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing which claimed 270 lives

Former Libyian intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing which claimed 270 lives

Former Libyian intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing which claimed 270 lives. 

He was jailed in 2001 for his role in the attack that brought down Pan Am flight 103 on December 21, 1988, in what became the worst terrorist attack on British soil. 

The Boeing 747 jet took off from London Heathrow airport around 30 minutes before it exploded as it cruised at 31,000 feet above the Scottish borders. 

Al-Megrahi was convicted on the basis of evidence from Maltese shop owner Tony Gauci, who died in 2016 aged 75.   

Gauci ran a clothes shop in Swieqi, Malta, at the time of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 and claimed that Megrahi bought a piece of clothing found among the debris of the aircraft.

His evidence helped to secure the 2001 conviction of the former Libyan intelligence officer for the atrocity in which 270 people died, including 11 people on the ground. But some doubts were subsequently raised about Mr Gauci’s reliability.

Megrahi was the only person to have been convicted of the bombing over the south of Scotland on December 21 1988.

He was jailed for life but an investigation by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) led to a finding in 2007 of six grounds where it is believed a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, paving the way for a second appeal.

The Libyan dropped that appeal in 2009 before being released from jail on compassionate grounds due to his terminal prostate cancer. He died protesting his innocence in Libya in 2012.

The trial judgment detailed how the three judges were satisfied Megrahi had walked into Mr Gauci’s shop and bought items of clothing which ended up packed around the bomb that exploded in a suitcase on board the flight.

Al-Megrahi, pictured here following his release from prison on compassionate grounds in 2009 claimed he was innocent of the crime

Al-Megrahi, pictured here following his release from prison on compassionate grounds in 2009 claimed he was innocent of the crime

Al-Megrahi, pictured here following his release from prison on compassionate grounds in 2009 claimed he was innocent of the crime

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