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Senin, 21 Desember 2020

Lockerbie bombing: New charges filed against bombmaker after alleged confession over 1988 terror attack - ABC News

The US Justice Department has presented new charges against a Libyan bombmaker over the 1988 explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 above the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

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

He had announced an earlier set of charges against two other Libyan intelligence officials in his capacity as acting attorney general nearly 30 years ago, vowing that the investigation would continue.

Though Mr Barr had not appeared at a press conference in months, he led this one two days before his departure as a career bookend.

The case against the alleged bombmaker, Abu Agela Masud Kheir Al-Marimi, is for now more theoretical than practical since Masud is not in US custody and it is unclear if he ever will be, or if the evidence will be sufficient for conviction.

But it nonetheless represents one of the more consequential counterterrorism announcements from the Trump administration Justice Department.

A breakthrough in the case

A breakthrough in the investigation came when US officials in 2017 received a copy of an interview that Masud, a longtime explosives expert for Libya's intelligence service, had given to Libyan law enforcement in 2012 after being taken into custody.

In the interview, Masud 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, according to US officials.

Lockerbie wreckage
More than 4 million pieces of wreckage were collected by investigators.(Reuters: Greg Bos, file photo)

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.

While Masud is now the third Libyan intelligence official charged in the US in connection with the Lockerbie bombing, he would be the first to stand trial in an American courtroom.

After Mr Barr in 1991 announced charges against the two other men, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, the Libyan government balked at turning them over, sceptical the men could receive a fair trial.

The country ultimately turned them over for prosecution before a panel of Scottish judges sitting in a Netherlands court as part of a special arrangement.

Al-Megrahi was convicted while Fhimah was acquitted of all charges. Al-Megrahi was given a life sentence, but Scottish authorities released him on humanitarian grounds in 2009 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He later died in Tripoli.

An FBI affidavit says Masud told Libyan law enforcement that he flew to Malta to meet al-Megrahi and Fhimah. He handed Fhimah a medium-sized suitcase containing a bomb, 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.

Masud remains in custody in Libya, but Mr Barr said the US and Scotland would use "every feasible and appropriate means" to bring him to trial.

The most deadly terror attack in the UK

The Pan Am flight was destroyed by a bomb while flying over Lockerbie, Scotland less than an hour after takeoff from London on December 21, 1988, en route to New York City and then Detroit.

The explosion killed all 243 passengers and 16 crew on board, as well as 11 other people on the ground as large sections of the aircraft crashed onto a residential street.

An aerial view of a Scottish street. Houses are in ruins and a crater runs through the middle of the street.
Eleven people were killed after wreckage of the plane fell to the ground in a residential street of Lockerbie, Scotland.(File)

The wreckage of the crash was scattered over 2,000 square kilometres.

More than 4 million individual pieces of scattered wreckage were collected and logged by investigators.

It remains the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United Kingdom.

AP

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2020-12-21 22:45:00Z
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