New developments in Lockerbie drama
London - Scottish prosecutors want to question two men now jailed in Libya as suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.
All 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed when a bomb exploded on board the Boeing 747 as it passed over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie en route from London to New York on December 21st, 1988. Eleven people in the ground were killed by falling debris.
Only one man, Abdelbaset al- Megrahi, has been convicted of involvement in the bombing. He was released from a Scottish prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds because he had prostate cancer. He died in 2012, with many, including some families of victims, questioning his guilt.
Now Scottish and US investigators want to talk to former Libyan spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi and bomb-maker Mohammed Abouajela Masud.
Senussi is imprisoned in Tripoli after being sentenced to death for his role in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising against despot Muammar Qaddafi
Masud, a Libyan intelligence asset, is also in prison in Tripoli. He was convicted of booby-trapping a political rival’s car.
Many have greeted the latest developments in this more than 25-year-old case with trepidation but relatives of those who died in the bombing welcomed it, saying they are still waiting for justice.
‘I’m delighted they are doing this. We, the American families, have been pressing and pressing for the bombing to be properly investigated. The governments have been dragging their feet and they should have been looking for other people involved, because it wasn’t just Megrahi,” Susan Cohen, whose 20-year-old daughter was killed in the bombing, told ITV news.
“I’m pleased [about the identification of new suspects]. If there is material that shows other people were involved then we want to know. We want to know who murdered our families. The big but for us is we’re not satisfied the one man who was found guilty was in fact guilty,” said Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing.
Megrahi claimed he was innocent of the bombing, launching a number of appeals from behind bars. Megrahi’s defence team contended that Mohammed Abu Talb, an Egyptian-born militant, was responsible for the attack on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. He was arrested in connection with the bombing, but released.
Speaking after the announcement, former US lead investigator of the Lockerbie bombing Dick Marquise revealed that both Senussi and Masud were on the radar of investigators during the original trial.
“We had Senussi as a possible suspect. We had heard stories that he was involved deeply in terrorist plots, but nothing specific in regards to Lockerbie,” Marquise told The Scotsman.
As for Masud, he said: “We were aware of him. We believed he was a technician of some kind — a bomb builder. However, there was no real evidence against him other than that he was a bomb technician and he was on a flight with Megrahi… I think the prosecutors erred on the side of caution.”
Questions remain as to whether Scottish prosecutors will be able to indict the pair from Libya, which is split between two governments. The Islamist government of Tripoli, where Senussi and Masud are being held, is not internationally recognised, further complicating the issue.
“The Libyans have always said they are not going to turn over anyone to a foreign government. And it’s been 26 years. It’s too long; people are dead; stories have been forgotten,” Frank Duggan, president of Pan Am 103 Relatives, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive.
“I’d like to think that it will be one small measure of closure but I don’t expect the kind of justice that we all hope for,” he added.