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Friday, February 3, 2023

Libya Launches an Investigation into the Kidnapping of a Lockerbie Bomb Suspect

Abu Agila Masud is accused of making the bomb that downed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988

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LIBYA: The chief prosecutor of Libya has launched an investigation into the extradition to the US of a Libyan national charged with building the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

On Sunday, US authorities revealed that Mohammed Abouagela Masud, a former intelligence officer, had been detained. He was charged with an act of international terrorism the day after his court appearance in Washington, DC.

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Prosecutor Al-Siddiq Al-Sour told reporters in Tripoli that the investigation was started due to a complaint from Masud’s family that his extradition was illegal. Later, Al-Sour told the Associated Press that the investigation had been conducted, but he provided no further information.

There is no official extradition treaty between the US and Libya.

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In a statement released soon after the tragedy, Masud’s family said that armed men kidnapped him from his house in Tripoli in November. The family also claimed that Tripoli authorities are at fault for the purported kidnapping and extradition. Since making that remark, Masud’s family has not provided any formal commentary nor responded to the AP’s request for comment.

Libya, torn apart by civil war since 2011, is split between the Tripoli-based administration of Prime Minister Hamid Dbeibah and a rival government led by PM Fathi Bashagha.

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Militia groups in western Libya have accumulated substantial wealth and power through kidnappings and their participation in the lucrative human trafficking industry there.

A request for comment regarding the probe was not met with any response from the Tripoli government of Libya’s official spokesperson.

A thorough examination of how Masud was abducted, imprisoned, and moved will undoubtedly reveal illegal actions, claims Jalel Harchaoui, a north African-focused expert. He added that “the investigation is unlikely to occur unless Debibah and his support base significantly weaken.”

Masud’s extradition was deemed unlawful by Bashagha on Tuesday, and the former intelligence officer demanded to be released right away.

On December 21, 1988, a Pan Am flight from London to New York went down over Lockerbie less than an hour after takeoff, killing 259 on board and 11 more after it fell. There were about 190 Americans aboard the flight, which was headed for New York.

It was a turning point in the decades-long investigation when the US Justice Department obtained a copy of an interview that Masud, a former explosives expert with Libya’s intelligence services, had given to the country’s law enforcement in 2012 while in custody following the overthrow of Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s long-standing rule.

According to US sources, Masud acknowledged making the device used in the Pan Am attack during the interrogation. According to an FBI document, he also claimed that Gaddafi’s intelligence agencies had ordered the operation.

In December 2020, American authorities filed charges against Masud. Libya was holding him at the time.

Masud is the first Libyan intelligence official to testify in an American court, despite being the third to be accused in the US in relation to the Lockerbie attack. US officials have not said how they came to hold him in custody.

Also Read: UN Calls for Libya Ceasefire after Deadly Clashes

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