Scottish prosecutors: 2 Libyans are Lockerbie bomb suspects

LONDON (AP) — A quarter-century after one of the worst terror attacks in British history, prosecutors say they have identified two new Libyan suspects in the bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, and want U.S. and Scottish investigators to interview them in Tripoli.

Given Libya’s instability, that may be a remote prospect.

Scotland’s Crown Office said Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had agreed there’s “a proper basis in law in Scotland and the United States to entitle Scottish and U.S. investigators to treat two Libyans as suspects” in the bombing of Flight 103.

It said Scotland and the U.S. were asking Libyan authorities to help Scottish detectives and FBI officers interview the suspects. The office said the Libyans are suspected of involvement with Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the attack.

A bomb shattered the New York-bound Boeing 747 as it flew over Scotland on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground. Many of the victims were American college students flying home for Christmas.

The complex and unfinished Lockerbie investigation is tied up with Libya’s relationship with the West. In 1988, dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya was a pariah state accused by Western governments of sponsoring terrorism.

In 1999, Gadhafi handed over al-Megrahi and a second suspect — later acquitted — to Scottish authorities after years of punishing U.N. sanctions. In 2003, Gadhafi acknowledged responsibility, though not guilt, for the Lockerbie bombing and paid compensation of about $2.7 billion to the victims’ families. He also pledged to dismantle all weapons of mass destruction and joined the U.S.-led fight against terrorism.

After Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011, Britain asked Libya’s new rulers to help fully investigate. But the country has since been wracked by chaos and political violence, stalling efforts to collect evidence and interview suspects.

The U.S. Department of Justice remains committed to pursuing justice for the bombing victims, 189 of whom were American, a department spokesman said.

Prosecutors didn’t name the two Libyans, in keeping with British practice of not identifying suspects until they’re charged.

British officials previously asked to interview Abdullah al-Senoussi, Gadhafi’s former spymaster, about the bombing.

A long investigation by documentary filmmaker Ken Dornstein, whose brother died in the attack, identified another Libyan, Abu Agila Mas’ud, as the possible bomb-maker. He hasn’t been named by U.S. or Scottish officials as a suspect.

Both were imprisoned in Libya after the 2011 fall of Gadhafi, and al-Senoussi has been sentenced to death. The crimes they’ve been charged with in Libya are unrelated to the bombing.

Dornstein said it’s heartening to know the Scottish and U.S. governments are pursing the bombing suspects, a task he acknowledged isn’t easy given the state of affairs in Libya.

“I feel like I pushed it as far as I could as a filmmaker and now it’s up to governments to do the actual administration of justice,” Dornstein said. “I’d be really gratified to know that this project could potentially lead to the first new charges in the case in some 25 years.”

Prosecutors believe Flight 103 was brought down by a bomb in a suitcase loaded onto a flight from Malta and then booked through to Pan Am 103 via Frankfurt.

Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, was convicted in 2001 of planting the bomb and sentenced to 27 years in prison. But investigators have always believed others were involved, and critics question the reliability of the evidence used to convict him.

Al-Megrahi’s conviction was largely based on the testimony of a Maltese shopkeeper who identified him as having bought a shirt, scraps of which were wrapped around a timing device discovered in the airliner’s wreckage.

Al-Megrahi denied any involvement. He was freed from a Scottish jail in 2009 on compassionate grounds, because he had cancer, to the outrage of many victims’ families. He died in Libya in 2012.

Some families of Lockerbie victims remain skeptical al-Megrahi was involved.

Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed in the bombing, said he believes al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted “so to try to bolt two more names on top of that is a very difficult situation.”

___

Associated Press writers Michael Biesecker in Washington and Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 15

Here’s what to expect this week.

Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people gather in Juneau for the opening of Celebration on June 5. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Federal judge considers lawsuit that could decide Alaska tribes’ ability to put land into trust

Arguments took place in early May, and Judge Sharon Gleason has taken the case under advisement.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, June 18, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, June 17, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Workers stand next to the Father Brown’s Cross after they reinstalled it at an overlook site on Mount Roberts on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Hugo Miramontes)
Father Brown’s Cross is resurrected on Mount Roberts after winter collapse

Five workers put landmark back into place; possibility of new cross next year being discussed.

KINY’s “prize patrol” vehicle is parked outside the Local First Media Group Inc.’s building on Wednesday morning. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau radio station KINY is using AI to generate news stories — how well does it get the scoop?

As trust and economics of news industry continue long decline, use and concerns of AI are growing.

An empty classroom at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on July 20, 2022. (Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska faces consequences as federal education funding equity dispute continues

State officials offered feds a $300,000 compromise instead of $17 million adjustment.

Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, speaks on the Senate floor on March 6. Gray-Jackson was the sponsor of a bill to make Juneteenth a state holiday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
On Juneteenth, Gov. Dunleavy weighs adding a new legal holiday for Alaska

If the governor signs recently passed bill, Juneteenth would be observed as a state holiday in 2025.

Most Read