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Investigators, Families Have Waited 34 Years For Lockerbie Charges

A Libyan man accused of making the bomb that took down a Pan Am plane in 1988 sits in U.S. custody, according to U.S. and Scottish officials.
Posted at 8:39 PM, Dec 12, 2022

Just days before Christmas in 1988, an international Pan Am flight exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 passengers, crew, and bystanders on the ground.

"It's been a long road. Thirty-four years is a long time," said Richard Marquise, the former head of the U.S. task force that searched for answers in Lockerbie. "The Pan Am 103 investigation was maddeningly slow because everybody in Washington wanted answers immediately. 'Who did this?' And even though we had some intelligence, we had no evidence to prove that anybody did this. And it took months to be able to hone in on country and then later, some of its citizens that eventually were indicted," Marquise said. 

Now a Libyan man accused of making the bomb that took down the plane sits in U.S. custody, according to U.S. and Scottish officials. 

Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi is the first former Libyan intelligence official to face charges on U.S. soil. He’s currently at the Alexandria Adult Detention Center in Virginia, facing two criminal counts. 

U.S. officials did not say how Mas'ud was taken into U.S. custody, and the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Libya. Local Libyan media reported that armed men abducted him from his home in Tripoli in mid-November and that his family accused authorities of staying silent. 

"There's a lot of things we don't have a clue about at this point. If the FBI obtained him legally, in other words, we didn't shoot our way into a jail and take him out and bring him to the United States — because that could be considered kidnapping in another country — but if he was turned over to us and there was no extradition, there was no legal process, our courts have upheld bringing these people to the United States to stand trial. So I think there's too many questions that are not yet answered that maybe we will get those answers, because I'm sure it's going to be an appeal by his attorneys about how he was brought here," Marquise said. 

Suspect In 1988 Bombing Of Pan Am Flight 103 Now In U.S. Custody

Suspect In 1988 Bombing Of Pan Am Flight 103 Now In U.S. Custody

The arrest of Abu Agela Masud Kheir Al-Marimi is a milestone in the decades-old investigation into the attack that killed 270 people.


The Dec. 21 crash created an 845-square-mile crime scene, with wreckage of clothing and wrapped Christmas gifts. Among the 270 victims from 21 different countries were 190 Americans, including 35 Syracuse University students flying home for the holiday. 

“I wasn't sure if, you know, within my lifetime we would be able to see the day," said M. Victoria Cummock, whose husband was killed in the crash. "So this is a significant milestone for me, my family and all the families of those killed."

A breakthrough in the case came after Mas’ud was arrested, and Libyan authorities gave U.S. law enforcement a copy of his interrogation. According to an FBI affidavit, he admitted to building the bomb and handing it over to two conspirators in a Samsonite suitcase. Mas’ud also allegedly said Libyan intelligence ordered the operation, and Muammar Gaddafi thanked him afterward. 

Now the families of victims are awaiting Mas’ud’s trial, still looking for more answers.  

"I think that this hopefully will provide them additional answers and provide all of us additional answers if he tells us what I believe I think he knows. It may allow us to indict and prosecute other people, which I think would help the families recover — even though I don't think closure is really a good term, because I don't know how you ever close the door on losing a loved one that way," Marquise said.