The US has introduced fees in opposition to a Libyan suspected of constructing the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
Abu Agila Mohammad Masud has been charged with terrorism-related crimes, Attorney General William Barr stated on Monday, 32 years on from the atrocity.
The lethal bomb assault on the Boeing 747 killed 270 folks, together with 190 American residents.
Prosecutors will search the extradition of Mr Masud to face trial within the US.
The US claims Mr Masud is an ex-Libyan intelligence operative. He allegedly carried out the assault on the orders of late Libyan chief Muammar Gaddafi.
The bombing of the London to New York flight stays the deadliest terrorist incident ever to have taken place within the UK, and the second deadliest air assault in US historical past.
Eleven folks on the bottom in Scotland have been additionally killed. The victims included 35 examine overseas US college students who have been returning residence for Christmas.
The new fees deliver Mr Barr’s function on this prolonged terrorism investigation full circle, as he was additionally US Attorney General when fees have been first introduced in opposition to two Libyan suspects in 1991.
Back then, serving underneath President George HW Bush, Mr Barr tasked his legal division head Robert Mueller to look into the bombing. Mr Mueller is now greatest identified for main the inquiry into alleged Russian meddling within the 2016 presidential election.
Both Mr Barr and Mr Mueller have taken half in remembrance occasions with households over time.
Police Scotland’s chief constable, Iain Livingstone, stated the fees have been a “significant development” and that they may “continue to work closely” with the US and different worldwide authorities. He stated it was “inappropriate to comment further” at the moment.
What did Mr Barr say?
Mr Barr stated he was “pleased to announce that the United States has filed criminal charges against the third conspirator Abu Agila Mohammad Masud for his role in the bombing”.
“Let there be no mistake, no amount of time or distance will stop the United States and our Scottish partners in pursuing justice in this case.”
Mr Barr stated the “breakthrough” that led to Monday’s fees got here when authorities discovered he was being held in Libya. Mr Barr stated Libyan authorities offered a replica of their interview with Mr Masud to US officers.
He stated Mr Masud allegedly constructed the bomb and labored with two different co-conspirators. He stated Gaddafi had additionally personally thanked Mr Masud “for the successful attack on the United States”.
“At long last this man responsible for killing Americans and many others will be subject to justice for his crimes,” Mr Barr stated.
The legal professional normal added that he’s “optimistic” that the Libyan authorities will hand Mr Masud over.
A protracted wait
Analysis by Paul Adams, BBC diplomatic correspondent
For Bill Barr, this has been a very long time coming.
Twenty-nine years in the past, as performing Attorney General, he introduced the primary indictments of suspects within the Lockerbie case.
Today, in certainly one of his final acts as Donald Trump’s prime authorized officer, he stated occasions had come “full circle,” with the unsealing of fees in opposition to Abu Agila Mohammad Masud.
“Terrorists have to know that eventually we will get them,” Barr instructed reporters.
Over the years, the bombing has spawned any variety of theories about who was accountable, with fingers pointing, at one time or one other, at Iran, Syria, Palestinian militants and, lastly, Libya.
But US and British officers have lengthy been satisfied Lockerbie was the work of Libyan brokers, working underneath orders from the nation’s former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
Today’s fees might, lastly, lay different theories to relaxation.
Who is Abu Agila Mohammad Masud?
Mr Masud is alleged to have been a prime bomb-maker for Mr Gaddafi.
Journalist Ken Dornstein, whose brother David was on board the Pan Am aircraft, went to Libya to trace down Mr Masud as a part of a 2015 TV documentary by US community PBS known as My Brother’s Bomber.
He instructed the BBC on the time that the Libyan nationwide was “a mystery figure” who was named within the preliminary investigation and “was said to have been a technical expert”.
The documentary alleged that Mr Masud had additionally been linked to a bombing at a disco in West Berlin in 1986, which killed three folks. It additionally reported that he was imprisoned in Libya over his function within the 2011 rebellion that ousted Gaddafi.
What does the US allege?
Based on journey information and witness statements, US investigators allege within the legal criticism that Mr Masud flew from Tripoli, Libya, to Malta in December 1988 however met with a Libyan intelligence official forward of the flight.
Six days later, two different co-conspirators additionally journeyed to Malta, and the three males allegedly labored collectively on the explosive system.
The criticism alleges they hid the cassette that held the bomb in clothes from a retailer in Malta.
Mr Masud armed the system on 21 December, investigators allege.
A suitcase containing the system was then positioned on feeder flights from Malta to Frankfurt, Germany, and finally to London’s Heathrow airport, the place it was loaded onto the Pan Am flight.
That similar day, Mr Masud reportedly returned to Tripoli. Several days later, he and one other co-conspirator allegedly met with a senior intelligence official, who praised their work.
How have victims’ households reacted?
Kara Weipz, whose brother was killed within the bombing, stated on the information convention: “We are justified, vindicated, our patience and persistence has proved fruitful with this decision today.”
“The motto of the family members over the last 32 years has been the truth must be known,” she stated.
Ahead of the briefing, some UK households had criticised the timing of the fees to fall on the anniversary of the assault, accusing the US justice division of utilizing the case for “propaganda purposes”.
John Mosey, whose 19-year-old daughter was killed within the bombing, stated he wouldn’t settle for the invitation to remotely attend the occasion.
Mr Mosey wrote that he and his spouse felt the timing was “bizarre, disrespectful, insensitive and extremely ill considered”.
“Why would you use the anniversary of our daughter Helga’s death along with 269 others to parade once more a highly suspect prosecution?”
Mr Mosey added that why the assault “was allowed to happen is a far more important question to us than ‘who did it?'”
Who has been convicted over the bombing?
Libyan nationwide Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is the one man convicted, in 2001, over the bombing.
Megrahi, who at all times proclaimed his innocence, launched two appeals in opposition to his 27-year sentence, one was unsuccessful and the opposite was deserted.
Megrahi was launched from jail in Scotland and allowed to return to Libya on compassionate grounds in 2009 after it emerged that he had terminal most cancers. He died three years later.
According to the FBI, the alleged bomb-maker Mr Masud is claimed to have admitted in his jailhouse confession that he purchased the garments which investigators say have been wrapped across the bomb within the Samsonsite suitcase.
This would seem to contradict a key piece of proof within the Scottish prosecution of Megrahi – that it was him who purchased the clothes.
However, Mr Masud additionally allegedly stated in his Libyan jailhouse interview that his fellow intelligence operative Megrahi was his co-conspirator within the bomb plot.