In 1991, two other Libyan intelligence operatives were charged in the bombing: Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.
Megrahi, who was found guilty over the bombing, was jailed for life in 2001. Scottish authorities released him on humanitarian grounds in 2009 after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He later died in Tripoli, still protesting his innocence.
Fhimah was acquitted of all charges, but Scottish prosecutors have maintained that Megrahi did not act alone.
The Libyan government had initially baulked at turning over the two men, before ultimately surrendering them for prosecution before a panel of Scottish judges sitting in the Netherlands as part of a special arrangement.
In 2020, the United States unsealed criminal charges against Mas’ud, a suspected third conspirator, adding he had worked as a technical expert in building explosive devices.
US officials did not say how Mas’ud came to be taken into US custody, but in late November, local Libyan media reported that Mas’ud had been kidnapped by armed men on November 16 from his residence in Tripoli, the capital. That reporting cited a family statement that accused Tripoli authorities of being silent on the abduction.
On November 21, Najla Mangoush, the foreign minister for the country’s Tripoli-based government, told the BBC in an interview that “we, as a government, are very open in terms of collaboration in this matter,” when asked whether an extradition was possible.
Torn by civil war since 2011, Libya is divided between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by international patrons and numerous armed militias on the ground. Militia groups have amassed great wealth and power from kidnappings and their involvement in Libya’s lucrative human trafficking trade
A breakthrough in the investigation came when US officials in 2017 received a copy of an interview that Mas’ud, a longtime explosives expert for Libya’s intelligence service, had given to Libyan law enforcement in 2012 after being taken into custody following the collapse of the government of the country’s leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
In that interview, US officials said, Mas’ud admitted building the bomb used in the Pan Am attack and working with two other conspirators to carry it out. He also said the operation was ordered by Libyan intelligence and that Gaddafi thanked him and other members of the team after the attack, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case.
That affidavit said Mas’ud told Libyan law enforcement that he flew to Malta to meet Megrahi and Fhimah. He handed Fhimah a medium-sized Samsonite suitcase containing a bomb, having already been instructed to set the timer so that the device would explode exactly 11 hours later, according to the document. He then flew to Tripoli, the FBI said.
The bombing laid bare the threat of international terrorism more than a decade before the September 11 attacks on the US. It produced global investigations and punishing sanctions while spurring demands for accountability from victims of those killed.
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