On 21 December 1988, a deadly blast left 270 people dead. Known over time as the Lockerbie bombing, the fatal attack was a bomb blast on board the Boeing 747 in the United Kingdom.
The jumbo jet bound to land in New York took off from London before the bomb exploded, killing the 259 passengers on board and 11 people who died in Lockerbie when wreckage destroyed their homes.
Lockerbie is a small town in Dumfries and Galloway, southwestern Scotland. It lies approximately 120 kilometers from Glasgow, and 25 km from the border with England. It had a population of 4,009 at the 2001 census. The Boeing 747 blasted above the city, and the wreckage killed people in their homes. Hence the disaster was named the Lockerbie bombing.
A device on board the Boeing 747 exploded as the flight flew over the English-Scottish border, killing 243 passengers, six crew, and 11 residents on the ground – including a family of four.
The dead were citizens of 21 countries, including 190 Americans and 43 Britons.
It is on record to date as the deadliest terrorist incident to have taken place on British soil. One man for fingered as the prime suspect behind the attack – his name, Muammar al-Gaddafi. But despite all the reports and proposed evidence against him, Gaddafi was never found to be criminally liable for the Lockerbie bombing.
However, in 2008, three years before the assassination of Gaddafi on 20 October 2011, Libya disbursed over $1.5bn as compensation to the families of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. At a news conference at the US Congress, the victims’ families declared victory in their quest for justice in the case.
“Until today, Libyan officials claimed it had long fulfilled justice to the families,” said Kara Weipz, of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 group. Her brother had been a passenger on the plane. “For many years, we were the forgotten victims of terrorism. Today is historic because Libya has finally fulfilled 100% justice to the Pan Am 103 families.”
The agreement also called for $300m in compensation for the Libyan victims of US airstrikes ordered by former US president Ronald Reagan in retaliation for the Berlin bombing.
But despite the compensation and the death of Muammar al-Gaddafi, it appears we have not heard the last of the Lockerbie bombing.
After the assassination of Gaddafi in 2011, Libya’s former justice minister told a Swedish newspaper that Colonel Gaddafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing.
Mustafa Abdel-Jalil told Expressen during the interview that he had proof the Libyan leader was behind the bombing of Pan AM flight 103, which killed 270 people in 1988.
Following the disclosure, the Crown Office said it would “pursue such lines of inquiry that become available.”
The Ghosts of Lockerbie Bombing Rise Again
All those who thought that the compensation of the families of the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, and the death of Gaddafi would bring an end to the fireworks that have been associated with the deadly attack, thought wrong.
Earlier this week, news broke that a Libyan man accused of making the bomb that destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie 34 years ago is in United States custody. The report was made public by the Scottish authorities.
You will recall that the United States announced charges against Abu Agila Masud two years ago, alleging he had played a key role in the bombing on 21 December 1988.
Last month it was reported that Mr. Masud had been kidnapped by a militia group in Libya, leading to speculation that he would be handed over to the American authorities to stand trial.
A U.S. Justice Department spokesperson told the Reuters news agency that the suspect would make an initial appearance in a federal court in Washington.
However, according to reports, Abu Agila Masud, a Libyan intelligence operative, was informed on his appearance in court that he would not face the death penalty.
At Monday’s hearing, US Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather elected to delay the formal reading of charges until after Mr. Masud secures legal representation for his trial. As a result, he did not enter any plea.