Two new Libyan suspects identified in Lockerbie bombing

A Dec 23, 1988 file photo shows Scottish rescue workers and crash investigators searching the area around the cockpit of Pan Am flight 103 in a farmer's field east of Lockerbie, Scotland.
A Dec 23, 1988 file photo shows Scottish rescue workers and crash investigators searching the area around the cockpit of Pan Am flight 103 in a farmer's field east of Lockerbie, Scotland. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Scottish prosecutors on Thursday (Oct 15) said they had identified two new Libyan suspects in the bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, which killed 270 people.

Scottish and US officials agree "there is a proper basis in law... to treat two Libyans as suspects in the continuing investigation into the bombing of flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie," according to a statement released by prosecutors.

"The two individuals are suspected of involvement, along with Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi," it added.

Megrahi, a former intelligence officer who died three years ago, was jailed over the bombing in 2001. He is the only person ever convicted of the crime.

 

Scotland's chief legal officer on Thursday issued a formal letter to the Libyan attorney general in Tripoli, which identifies the suspects and calls for cooperation.

"The Lord Advocate and the US Attorney General are seeking the assistance of the Libyan judicial authorities for Scottish police officers and the FBI to interview the two named suspects in Tripoli," the statement said.

The head of investigations department at the Libyan Attorney General office in Tripoli declined to comment to AFP.

Scottish media named one of the two suspects as former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi, who was sentenced to death in July for crimes during the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi. Senussi has been in custody in Libya since 2012.

The second person was named by Scottish media as Abu Agila Mas'ud, a bomb expert, who featured in a recent US documentary by Ken Dornstein, the brother of one of the Lockerbie victims. He is also reportedly in Libyan custody.

The Scottish government released Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009 after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died in Libya in 2012 still protesting his innocence.

Libya admitted responsibility for the bombing in 2003 and the regime of slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi eventually paid US$2.7 billion (S$3.7 billion) in compensation to victims' families as part of a raft of measures aimed at a rapprochement with the West.

The attack took place two years after the United States conducted a series of air strikes against Libya that nearly killed Gaddafi and some observers believe it was a form of retaliation.

The air strikes were themselves a response to the bombing in 1986 of a Berlin disco popular with US military personnel in which three people were killed.

The US blamed the Libyan government for that attack.

All 259 people on board the Pan Am flight - most of them Americans heading from London to New York for the Christmas holidays - were killed, as well as 11 people on the ground in Scotland.

Since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, British and US detectives have travelled to Libya to investigate whether other perpetrators can be identified.