Lockerbie blast: US, Scotland seek Libya's help over 2 suspects

A file picture taken in Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec 22, 1988, shows the wreckage of the Pan Am Flight 103 aircraft that exploded, killing all 270 on board. Many details of the bombing remain unresolved.
A file picture taken in Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec 22, 1988, shows the wreckage of the Pan Am Flight 103 aircraft that exploded, killing all 270 on board. Many details of the bombing remain unresolved.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Interviews sought with duo over 1988 plane bombing that killed 270

LONDON • Scottish and United States prosecutors are asking the Libyan government for help in tracking down two suspects in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, the terrorist attack that brought down Pan Am Flight 103, killing 270 people.

"The Lord Advocate and the US Attorney-General have recently agreed that there is a proper basis in law in Scotland and the United States to entitle Scottish and US investigators to treat two Libyans as suspects in the continuing investigation into the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie," a spokesman for Mr Frank Mulholland, the Lord Advocate, or top prosecutor, for Scotland said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement did not name the individuals sought in the case.

Mr Mulholland has written a letter to the Libyan authorities requesting their help in interviewing the two suspects, according to the statement.

Many details of the Dec 21, 1988 bombing remain unresolved. In 2001, a former Libyan intelligence officer, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, was convicted of plotting the bombing.

Mr Dornstein's film suggests that a former Libyan intelligence officer, Abdullah Senussi, who fled to Mauritania during the uprising against Gaddafi, may have been involved.

The verdict came from a Scottish court meeting in the Netherlands - a highly unusual arrangement agreed to when Libya's long-time ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, allowed the deportation of al-Megrahi and another suspect, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah.

Mr Fhimah was acquitted. Al-Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, but in 2009, the Scottish government, over the strenuous objections of US officials, released him on compassionate grounds.

He returned to Libya where he died of prostate cancer in 2012, still maintaining his innocence. Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprising in Libya.

The Lockerbie bombing occurred at a low point in US-Libyan relations. Two years before the attack, in April 1986, then US President Ronald Reagan ordered air strikes against the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi in retaliation for the bombing of a West Berlin nightclub frequented by US armed service personnel.

The bombing of the Pan Am flight that killed 189 Americans was believed by the US authorities to have been a response to the strikes against Libya.

An article published last month in The New Yorker magazine revisited the Lockerbie case through the eyes of Mr Ken Dornstein, a film-maker whose brother, David, died in the attack. Mr Dornstein's three-part film, My Brother's Bomber, has been airing on PBS' Frontline series the past three weeks.

Mr Dornstein, who has doggedly followed the case, tracked down Musbah Eter, a Libyan who was convicted of involvement in the 1986 nightclub bombing.

Eter told Mr Dornstein that Abu Agila Mas'ud, a Libyan official, armed the bomb that was used in the Lockerbie attack. Mas'ud is in a Libyan prison, having been convicted of making bombs for the Gaddafi government at the outset of the popular uprising in Libya.

The Western authorities have not been able to question Mas'ud; it is not clear whether he is one of the two people now being sought.

Mr Dornstein's film suggests that a former Libyan intelligence officer, Abdullah Senussi, who fled to Mauritania during the uprising against Gaddafi, may have been involved. It is unclear if he, too, is one of the individuals sought by the Scottish and US authorities.

He was arrested in Mauritania in 2012 and extradited to Libya to face trial there with other former members of the Gaddafi government.

The film also raises questions about the role of Mr Badri Hassan, a friend of al-Megrahi, whose widow told Mr Dornstein in an interview that she always suspected her husband had been one of the plotters. Mr Badri, a former airlines executive, died of a heart attack a few years ago.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'Lockerbie blast: US, Scotland seek Libya's help over 2 suspects'. Print Edition | Subscribe