US Expected To Issue New Charges Over 1988 Pan Am 747 Bombing

Almost 32 years after the incident and 20 years after the only other charge, the US Department of Justice is expected to charge at least one individual related to the 1988 Pan Am Lockerbie bombing. Only one person was ever convicted concerning the attack. The anniversary of the attack is on Monday 21st December.

Pan Am Boeing 747 Lockerbie Bombing
The Clipper Maid of the Seas crashed near Lockerbie in Scotland after a bomb exploded in the cargo hold. Photo: Kambui via Wikimedia

New charges

Although details are unknown, reports are spreading that a person will be formally charged within the coming days. The Wall Street Journal has named the man as Libyan national Abu Agila Mohammad Masud. Reportedly, Masud is in custody in Libya for other bomb-related charges. He now faces extradition to the US to face charges. However, this has not been confirmed.

The only other person convicted in connection with the case is a Libyan Government Intelligence Officer named Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was convicted in 2001. In the Netherlands, a Scottish court sentenced him after Libya refused to turn him over to face charges in the US. A second Libyan national was charged at the same time but was acquitted.

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Lockerbie Getty
The 32nd anniversary of the incident is on Monday. Photo: Getty Images

The new charges come just one week before US Attorney General William Barr is set to leave his position. Barr was the Attorney General at the time of the bombing and oversaw the original investigation.

Pan Am flight 103

Pan Am flight 103 was set to fly from Frankfurt to Detroit via London and New York. The Pan Am Boeing 747, registration N739PA, named Clipper Maid of the Seas, flying the transatlantic route left London Heathrow on time, heading north to Scotland before crossing the ocean. However, less than an hour into the flight, a bomb detonated in the fuselage killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew. It’s thought that a bomb with a timer in a suitcase was smuggled onto an Air Malta flight. This was then transferred to the Pan Am flight.

The plane fell in pieces crashing near the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 11 people on the ground to bring the total number of casualties to 270. Of the passengers onboard, 179 were US citizens, and 11 of the crew were American. The presence of 39 American university students meant the US Department of Justice was heavily involved in investigations.

Pan Am boeing 747 Lockerbie bombing fuselage
Despite three years of investigation, including reassembling the aircraft, only one person has been convicted. Photo: Getty Images

Taking responsibility

A joint investigation by Scottish and US authorities took three years before charging two Libyan nationals. In 2003, the Libyan Government officially accepted responsibilities for the bombings as part of negotiations to end US sanctions against the country. The negotiations also resulted in Libya paying $2.7 billion as compensation to families of the victims.

Despite the Libyan Government’s official recognition, many people, including the families of the victims, don’t feel that enough was done. The government still denies it was a sanctioned act meaning no one knows where the order for the attack came from. Until now, only two people have been charged, and only one was found guilty. This news of a new charge will be well-received by many.

The Lockerbie bombing is a historical event still shrouded in much mystery. The new charge and potential trail could give people the answers they are looking for.