US Justice Department Charges Libyan “Bombmaker” Over 1988 Lockerbie Explosion – Al Marsad

This week the US announced charges against a Libyan suspected of making the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December 1988. Attorney General William Barr charged Abu Agila Mohammad Masud with terrorism-related charges for the bomb attack on the Boeing 747 which killed 270 people, including 190 US citizens.

(Libya, 23 December 2020) – The US claims Mr Masud is an ex-Libyan intelligence operative and that he allegedly carried out the attack on the orders of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The charges were announced by Attorney General William Barr, Director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers, and Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin.

Wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 which blew over Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December 1988.

According to US Attorney General William Barr, “These charges are the product of decades of hard work by investigators and prosecutors who have remained resolute in their dogged pursuit of justice for our citizens, the citizens of the United Kingdom, and the citizens of the other 19 countries that were murdered by terrorists operating on behalf of the former Muamar Qaddafi regime when they attacked Pan Am Flight 103.”

He further stated that the “bombing of Pan Am 103 was historic in that it was, until the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the largest terrorist attack on U.S. civilians in history.”

An official statement by the US Justice Department stated: “Immediately after the disaster, Scottish and American law enforcement undertook a joint investigation that was unprecedented in its scope, and in November 1991, it led to criminal charges in both countries, charging two Libyan intelligence operatives, Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi (Megrahi) and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah (Fhimah) with their roles in the bombing.”

It also said that the affidavit stated that the External Security Organization (ESO) ‘was the Libyan intelligence service through which Libya conducted acts of terrorism against other nations and repressed the activities of Libyan dissidents abroad.” It added that Mr Masud “worked in various capacities for the ESO, including as a technical expert in building explosive devices from approximately 1973 to 2011.”

The affidavit accused Mr Masud of not only participating in the Lockerbie bombing but also on the 5 April 1986 bombing of the LaBelle Discotheque in West Berlin, Germany in which two US servicemen were killed.

The affidavit stated: “in the winter of 1988, Masud was summoned by a Libyan intelligence official to meet at that official’s office in Tripoli, Libya, where he was directed to fly to Malta with a prepared suitcase … where he was met by Megrahi and Fhimah at the airport.” It continued: “After Masud spent approximately three or four days in the hotel, Megrahi and Fhimah instructed Masud to set the timer on the device in the suitcase for the following morning, so that the explosion would occur exactly eleven hours later.”

Libyan Abdel baset al-Megrahi was jailed for 27 years in 2001 but released on compassionate grounds in 2009.

Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001, 13 years after the bombing.

US Prosecutors seek the extradition of Mr Masud to stand trial in the US. However, according to the Scottish newspaper, The National, said the the timing of the American announcement was “suspect” according to Aamer Anwar, the Megrahi family’s lawyer.

The newspaper said that Mr Masud “was reported to the FBI as a possible Lockerbie suspect by Abdul Majid Giaka in 1991.” It added that “Giaka was actually a paid CIA informant and gave evidence at the Lockerbie bombing trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands … The judges (there was no jury) made it clear they considered him neither credible nor reliable.”

Iranian, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Links to Lockerbie

The issue of who was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing remains far from conclusive. Muammer Gaddafi had signed the U.S-Libya Claims Settlement Agreement, the UTA Flight 772 Compensations Agreement, as well as the Berlin Discotheque Bombing Compensation Package which closed the dossier of these claims. According to a US State Department: “Most of the $1.5billion received from Libya through the settlement has been paid out to eligible claimants.”

The late Libyan leader, Gaddafi, had accepted responsibility but not guilt over Lockerbie and the investigations hitherto remain inconclusive. In return for the settlement, sanctions were dropped, and the United States restored full diplomatic relations.

Some investigators, however, believe the Iranian regime, with the assistance of a Palestinian group, played a role in retaliation for a July 1988 incident in which a U.S. warship mistakenly downed an Iran Air plane with 290 passengers aboard. That it wasn’t Libya but Iran who was behind the Lockerbie tragedy.

An extensive report by Al Jazeera in 2014 categorically claimed that the Lockerbie evidence pointed to Iran’s secret service and a Palestinian group being behind bombing of Pan Am flight 103. According to the report by Al Jazeera: “Documents obtained by the network, and verified by security and legal experts, point to the involvement of Iran’s secret service, Hezbollah and the armed group The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – General Command.”

Iranian suspects behind the Lockerbie tragedy.

HASSAN ROUHANI TWEET

The Lockerbie case had a further twist earlier in 2020. A social media post from the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani seemed to refer to the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 and Iran’s responsibility for it.

Rouhani posted a tweet in response to President Donald Trump’s threat to target 52 sites in Iran should it retaliate against the US drone strike that killed top Iranian military figure General Qassem Soleimani. He tweeted: “Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655. Never threaten the Iranian nation.”

The number 290 is a reference to the number of passengers on board Iranian Airways flight IR655 who died when the US Navy accidentally shot down their plane over the Persian Gulf in summer 1988. Five months later, 270 people died when Pan Am flight 103 crashed in Lockerbie after a bomb exploded on board.

Robert Black QC said: “I think Rouhani’s tweet does refer to Pan Am 103 … The 290 clearly refers to those killed on Iran Air 655 and with ‘Never threaten the Iranian nation’ it seems to me that he’s saying that Iran responded to those Iranian deaths caused by US action.” He concluded: “The only response that I can think of was the bombing of Pan Am 103 six months later.”

Middle East analyst Fatima Alasrar, from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, also indicated the link between Rouhani’s tweet and Lockerbie. “Rouhani is basically reminding President Trump off the Iranian Air Flight 655 carrying 290 passengers which was downed by a US navy warship the Vincennes in 1988.” She said though it was deemed a human error, “Tehran worked covertly to exact its revenge” through Lockerbie.

© AlMarsad English (2020)

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