A suspect in the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing that killed 270 people was taken into custody by the United States.

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Some 34 years later, 270 people, including 190 Americans, died as a result of aerial bombing. Pan Am 103 A Libyan spy accused of building an explosive device in Lockerbie, Scotland has been taken into custody by the United States to face justice, federal officials told ABC News.

Abu Aqila Massoud will face criminal charges in the United States for his suspected role in the deadliest terrorist attack on British soil and the largest terrorist attack involving Americans, according to a Justice Department spokesman.

The United States has accused Masoud of creating the device used to blow up the Boeing 747, which was en route from London’s Heathrow Airport to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, about 38 minutes after takeoff. The flight was originally supposed to start in Frankfurt, Germany and end in Detroit after a stopover in New York.

Among the dead were 35 Syracuse University students returning home for the holidays after a semester studying abroad.

PHOTO: FILE - An early morning scene in Lockerbie after Pan Am Flight 103, December 22, 1988.

The early morning scene at Lockerbie after Pan Am Flight 103, December 22, 1988.

Tom Stoddart Archive/Getty Images, FILE

“The United States has taken into custody the alleged bomber of Pan Am Flight 103, Abu Aqila Muhammad Massoud Kheir Al-Marim,” the DOJ said in a statement.

It is not yet known when Masud will appear in court. He is expected to make an initial appearance in District of Columbia Court, according to the DOJ.

“The families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing have been informed that the suspect, Abu Aqila Mohammed Masoud Kheir Al-Marimi, is in custody in the United States,” said a spokesman for the Crown Office and Prosecution Fiscal Service, the Crown Prosecution Service of Scotland. Statement to ABC News.

“Scottish prosecutors and police, working with their UK government and US counterparts, will continue this investigation with the sole aim of bringing those who acted with Al Megrahi to justice,” the statement quoted the convicted Libyan intelligence official as saying. For his role in the 2001 Pan Am bombing.


Stephanie Bernstein, whose husband Michael was among those killed in the blast, said she learned Massoud was in custody in the United States during a phone call from federal authorities early Sunday morning.

“It’s unbelievable. When I first learned about this, I thought I was dreaming. This would not have happened without the high levels of government and the commitment to bring this person to justice,” Bernstein told ABC News.

Before his death, Michael Bernstein was tracking former members of the Nazi regime at the Justice Department.

“I believed it was very important to hold people accountable,” Bernstein said.

He and other relatives of some of those killed said they doubted Massoud would ever be brought to justice, given the complexity of Libya and the lack of an extradition treaty with the United States.

“It was not clear that we would ever, ever get him. He admitted to the bombing, but only to a Libyan authority,” Bernstein said, adding that Massoud plans to be in court when he makes his initial appearance.

The announcement comes two years after Massoud, who has been imprisoned in Libya for several years, was indicted on two federal charges related to the bombing.

A suitcase bomb

Massoud is charged in federal court with the destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and the destruction of a vehicle with an explosive device resulting in death.

A criminal testimony From 1973 to 2011, Massoud allegedly worked for the Foreign Security Agency, Libya’s intelligence service, mainly as a technical expert on the development of explosive devices.

PHOTO: PHOTO PHOTO: Flowers are seen in the Memorial Garden at Dryfesdale Cemetery on the morning of the 30th anniversary of the December 21, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish city.

Wreaths are seen in the Memorial Garden at Dryfesdale Cemetery on the morning of the 30th anniversary of the December 21, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over the Scottish city, killing 259 passengers and crew and 11 residents. land, Lockerbie, Scotland, Britain, Dec. 21, 2018.

Pool/Reuters, FILE

In addition to the Pan Am 103 bombing, Massoud is alleged to have been involved in other plots against the United States and the West, including the April 5, 1986, bombing of the LaBelle disco in West Berlin, Germany, in which two U.S. servicemen were present. killed, 229 people, including 79 Americans, were injured

At the direction of two Libyan intelligence officers, including Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi, Massoud constructed the Pan Am 103 bomb in a hotel room on the island of Malta in the winter of 1988 and hid the device in a medium-sized container. Samsonite suitcase and setting the timer to go off in December after 11 hours. 21, according to the criminal statement.

Massoud allegedly gave the suitcase to Megrahi and another Libyan operative, both of whom worked at the Malta airport. One of the operatives placed the suitcase on an airport conveyor belt and it was smuggled onto a flight to Frankfurt, where it was transferred to Pan Am Flight 103 as a piece of checked baggage.

PHOTO: FILE - A section of a headstone to the victims of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in the memorial garden at Dryfesdale Cemetery near Lockerbie, Scotland, December.  20, 2008.

Part of a headstone erected to the victims of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in the memorial garden at Dryfesdale Cemetery near Lockerbie, Scotland, Dec. 20, 2008.

Scott Heppell/AP, FILE

The bomb detonated on Flight 103 was 31,000 feet above Lockerbie, Scotland. The explosion tore the plane into countless pieces scattered over an area of ​​840 square miles, almost the entire width of Scotland. According to the statement, 11 residents of Lockerbie were killed as a result of the destruction.

In 2001, Megrahi was tried by three Scottish judges sitting in a special court in the Netherlands for his role in the bombing. He was released in 2009 due to cancer and died in Libya in 2012.

Megrahi’s co-defendant, Lamin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted of the charges stemming from the bombing.

‘as is’

Former US Attorney General William Barr announced the charges against Massoud in his final week at the Justice Department. At a 2020 press conference, Barr noted that the breakthrough that led to the new charges against Massoud came after law enforcement learned he had been arrested in 2016 after the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, and he gave an interview to Libyan law enforcement. gave Officer in September 2012.

According to allegations, Massoud told the officer that the bombing plan was ordered by the then leadership of the Libyan intelligence and Gaddafi He thanked him personally for the successful attack on the United States.

Kathryn Thurman, retired assistant director of the FBI’s Victim Services Division, worked closely with the families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing.

He told ABC News on Sunday that while the victims’ relatives have not been able to speak, “I imagine many of them are happy and relieved to see another step toward accountability after all these years.”

“This proves that despite the progress of the world, the US and Scottish justice systems have not forgotten the murders of their loved ones and have not stopped their efforts over the years,” said Thurman. “So it should be.”

ABC News’ Adam Carlson contributed to this report.

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