Lockerbie bomb suspect in US custody 'kidnapped from home' by warlords

Mohammed Abouagela Masud was accused by the US of having set a timer for the bomb that destroyed a Boeing 747, killing 270 people in 1988

A former Libyan intelligence agent accused of preparing the bomb that brought down Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 was taken into US custody after being kidnapped from his home by a notorious warlord and then held by armed militia for two weeks. Guardians have been notified.

Mohammed Abouagela Masud appeared briefly in court in Washington DC on Monday, accused of having set the timer for the bomb that destroyed a Boeing 747, killing 270 people in the deadliest terrorist attack to hit British soil.

The US Department of Justice announced it had detained Masud over the weekend, but did not provide details on how he arrived in the US.

Officials familiar with the case in Libya told the Guardian that Masud was arrested at his home in the Abu Salem neighborhood by forces loyal to Abdel Ghani al-Kikili, known as "Gheniwa", who heads the Stability Support Authority (SSA) of the National Unity Government which has based in Tripoli.

At the time, Masud's family told local media that he had been kidnapped by gunmen, and accused the Tripoli authorities of remaining silent on the abduction.

Masud lives in his house after being released from prison six months ago after serving a 10-year sentence for crimes committed under Muammar Gadaffi's previous regime.

The National, a UAE-based newspaper reported on Monday that Masud's nephew said his uncle was detained by forces linked to the Libyan Defense Ministry's internationally recognized national unity government, GNU, on November 17, then taken to Misrata, 200 km from capital.

After his detention, the suspected bomber was taken to a military base in Misrata, where he was detained by one of the militias in the port city, officials said.

About a week later, the men holding Masud were contacted by his family who were frantically trying to track down the missing man. They were assured that he would return home safely in no time, officials said.

However, within the following week, an "American team" arrived in Misrata, taking Masud on a private jet flight from the city's airport to Malta, the Guardian said.

Masud's nephew, Abdulmenam Marimi, told Reuters on Monday that his family only found out he had been transferred to the United States when they saw him on the news.

It has not been possible to confirm all the details described by officials, who are in the good position to know about the case, but experts say the report is "absolutely plausible".

Amnesty International described al-Kikili as a ruthless militia commander whose subordinates had a "well-documented history of crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations". The SSA has a responsibility to arrest individuals in “national security” cases.

"For more than a decade, militias under his command terrorized people in the Abu Salim neighborhood of Tripoli through enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings and other crimes under international law," the organization said in 2022.

Al-Kikili denied Amnesty's allegations, saying that the SSA "was keen to apply Libyan law first, which takes into account standards of justice and human rights, and works within the framework of official state institutions".

Libya is divided between two administrations, and is the scene of a struggle for influence between countries including Egypt, Russia, UAE, Turkey and western nations. GNU is based in Tripoli.

It is not clear which militia detained Masud in Misrata, but all have been repeatedly accused of various human rights violations, including torture, illegal detention, extrajudicial executions, forced transfers and exploitation of migrants.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, told reporters at a White House news conference Monday: "Today is a good day because Masud is going to stand trial for his alleged role in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. I would say that this was done in a lawful manner according to procedure." set. To be more specific about how that happened I would refer you to the justice department as they are in the best position to be able to talk about it.

The US Department of Justice did not initially respond to requests for comment. In a statement, Michael H Glasheen, acting assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, said: "The arrest and lawful surrender in court of the suspected bomb maker... is the result of hard work and partnerships around the world."

Scottish prosecutors, who are closely involved in the investigation, said the victim's family was told Masud had been extradited to the United States. 

A Pan Am flight from London Heathrow to John F Kennedy airport in New York exploded 31,000 feet over Scotland on December 21, 1988. A total of 259 people died on board, while debris from the exploding plane killed 11 others on the ground. at Lockerbie. .

According to the US affidavit, Masud was a key figure in the plot, along with Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, and Al-Amin Khalifah Fhimah. Al-Megrahi was jailed for life for mass murder by three Scottish judges at a special court sitting in the Netherlands in 2001. Fhimah was later acquitted at trial.

Investigators said Masud met with two other people in Malta, where he was directed to fly by a senior Libyan intelligence official with suitcases prepared. He is asked to set a timer by two other men, and the suitcase travels via feeder flight to the hold of the Boeing 747.

Three months after the bombing, the US alleged, Masud and Fhimah met with then-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who "thanked them for carrying out a great national duty".

At the time, Gaddafi was in conflict with the west, but under his leadership Libya later renounced terrorism and accepted responsibility for the plane bombing in 2003 in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

After Gaddafi fell, Masud, a longtime explosives expert for the country's intelligence services, was detained by Libyan law enforcement. In 2017, US officials received copies of an interview with Masud conducted by Libyan authorities soon after his arrest.

In the interview, US officials said Masud confessed to making the bomb used in the Pan Am attack and cooperating with the two men previously tasked with planting it on the plane. He said the operation had been ordered by Libyan intelligence and Gaddafi had thanked him and others after the attack, according to an FBI affidavit.

In late 2020, the US Department of Justice announced charges against Masud. However, with Masud in Libyan custody, his prosecution remains largely theoretical.This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS.  

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