One of Attorney General Bill Barr’s final acts, before he steps down on Wednesday, will be to oversee the Justice Department’s charging of the alleged Lockerbie bomb-maker, more than three decades after the event took place.
The DOJ announced new charges Monday against Abu Agila Mohammed Masud, who acted under the direction of Libyan dictator Muammar Gadaffi, now deceased, after new information came to light that allowed his role to be discovered.
The action brings Barr full circle, since he also served in the Justice Department under President George H.W. Bush when the bombing took place and was Attorney General when two of the bombing’s planners were charged in 1991.
“The Lockerbie bombing remains the single deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United Kingdom and the second deadliest in American history, the costliest being 9/11,” Barr said in announcing the charges. “At the time, investigators were unable to identify or locate this third person, [but] I am pleased to announce that the United States has filed criminal charges against the third conspirator — Abu Agila Mohammad Masud — for his role in the bombing of Pan Am 103.”
Justice will be served
Barr made it clear that even 32 years later, the U.S. would pursue justice against those who took American lives: “Let there be no mistake — no amount of time or distance will stop the United States and our Scottish partners from pursuing justice in this case.”
Masud has already been serving a 10-year sentence for bomb-making in Libya after being captured in 2012, but Barr wants him extradited to the U.S. to face charges for the destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and the destruction of an airplane with explosives.
“At long last, this man responsible for killing Americans and many others will be subject to justice for his crimes,” Barr said.
The Lockerbie bombing occurred on December 21, 1988, on Pan Am flight 103, scheduled to fly from Frankfurt, Germany, to Detroit, Michigan with layovers in London and New York City. The plane exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, including 190 Americans and 43 British citizens.
Everyone onboard the plane was killed, as well as 11 people on the streets below as the debris scattered over almost the entire length of Scotland, making it the biggest crime scene in history.
New information led to charges
Information about Masud’s involvement came to light in 2016 when DOJ officials found out that he was questioned by Libyan law enforcement after Gadaffi’s regime collapsed.
Investigators eventually determined that Libyan intelligence had ordered the bombing operation and found out that Gadaffi personally thanked Masud for its success.
Masud is also said to have been involved in the 1986 West Berlin bombing of the La Belle discothèque, in which two U.S. service members and another person were killed.
Gadaffi eventually paid restitution to the bombing victims’ families in order to get U.N. sanctions lifted, but continued to claim he did not order the bombing himself until his death.