DOJ charges suspected bomb maker in Pan Am 103 explosion

DOJ charges suspected Pan Am 103 bomb maker

Abu Agela Masud Kheir Al-Marimi is the third Libyan intelligence official linked to 188 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Published: December 21, 2020
Remembrance Vigil 2019
SU's 35 Remembrance Scholars circled a single candle and white flowers, remembering the student victims of Pan Am Flight 103 one-by-one during a 2019 vigil.

The U.S. Justice Department announced new charges Monday against Abu Agela Masud Kheir Al-Marimi, a Libyan bomb maker suspected in the 1988 explosion of Pan Am Flight 103, according to The Associated Press. 

Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, killing 270 people, including 35 Syracuse University students. U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced the charges on the 32nd anniversary of the terrorist attack, which also happen to be his final two days as Attorney General.

According to the Justice Department, Masud is charged with the destruction of an aircraft resulting in death, and destruction of a vehicle by means of an explosive resulting in death. U.S. officials are currently in talks with Libya about Masud’s extradition.

These charges are the culmination of years of investigations, none of which would be possible without international cooperation, the Justice Department said.

From 1973 to 2011, Masud worked in a variety of roles for the External Security Organization (ESO), the Libyan intelligence service used to conduct acts of terrorism and suppress Libyan dissidents abroad. Among other things, Masud worked as a technical expert in building explosive devices, the Justice Department said.

Masud also took part in other terrorist plots against the United States and the west, including the 1986 bombing of the LaBelle Discotheque in West Berlin, Germany, that killed two U.S. service members and left others seriously injured or permanently disabled.

Sitting in Silence
Remembrance Scholars sit in silence on the quad to honor those lost on the Pan Am Flight 103 during a 2019 Remembrance Week event.

This marks the third Libyan intelligence official charged in the U.S. in connection with the Pan Am bombing, and if extradited to the U.S. Masud would be the first to stand trial in an American courtroom.

Barr, who also served in the Justice Department under former President George H.W. Bush, announced charges in 1991 against former Libyan intelligence officers Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah. The two were suspected of placing the explosive devices in a suitcase used in the Pan Am Flight 103 attack, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. 

The U.S. and Scotland each indicted the pair, but due to challenges in their extradition, a special arrangement was made and they were tried in the Netherlands with Scottish judges presiding.

In 2001, Fhimah was acquitted, and Al-Megrahi was sentenced to 27 years in prison for his role in the attack but was released in 2009 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Al-Megrahi later died in 2012.

The Libyan government formally accepted responsibility for the bombing in 2003 and agreed to pay nearly $3 billion to the victims’ families, the FBI said.

Each year SU commemorates the victims of the attack during the university’s Remembrance Week. At 2:03 p.m., just minutes before the announcement of charges this afternoon, students held a virtual memorial at the exact time Pan Am flight 103 ended.

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is a Magazine, News, and Digital Journalism and Political Science senior and one of the Lead News Producers for The NewsHouse.