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A bombing suspect in the 1988 explosion aboard Pan Am Flight 103 has been taken into US custody. Here’s what has happened in the decades since the deadly attack.

Some of the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 after it crashed onto the town of Lockerbie in Scotland, on 21st December 1988Some of the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 after it crashed onto the town of Lockerbie in Scotland, on 21st December 1988.

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  • A Libyan operative was taken into US custody this week, suspected of building the bomb that exploded aboard Pan Am Flight 103.
  • In December 1988, the Pan Am flight was flying over Lockerbie, Scotland, when the bomb detonated.
  • All 243 passengers and 16 crew on board were killed, as well as 11 people in Lockerbie who were struck by falling debris.
On December 11, 2022, the US Justice Department issued a statement confirming that Libyan bomb expert Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud, accused of building the explosive device that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103, was taken into US custody. He appeared in court in Washington, D.C., making him the first suspect connected to the terror attack to appear in a US courtroom. Mas’ud faces federal charges related to the bombing more than 30 years after the 1988 tragedy.Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi, also known as Mohammed Abouajela Masud, accused of making the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, also known as Mohammed Abouajela Masud, is shown listening to Assistant US Attorney Erik Kennerson with Masud’s attorney, public defender Whitney Minter, at his side as they appear in front of US Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather in this courtroom sketch drawn during an initial court appearance in US District Court in Washington, D.C., December 12, 2022.

Bill Hennessy/Reuters

Source: Business Insider, Department of Justice

On December 1988, the Boeing 747 was scheduled to fly from Frankfurt, Germany, to Detroit, Michigan, via London and New York. A bomb aboard the plane detonated over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.Police officers view the sorry sight of a row of aircraft seats from the crashed Pan Am Boeing 103. The plane came down on the town of Lockerbie, killing all 258 on board and 17 people on the ground.Police officers view a row of aircraft seats from the crashed Pan Am Boeing 103. The plane came down on the town of Lockerbie, Scotland.

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Source: Business Insider

All 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed in the explosion.The memorial to the Lockerbie Air Disaster, the site where Pan Am flight 103 was destroyed by a terrorist bomb.The memorial to the Lockerbie Air Disaster, the site where Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb.

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Source: Business Insider

Eleven people died in Lockerbie as debris from the explosion fell 30,000 feet.Local resident Robert Love stands by one of the four engines of the illfated Pan Am 747 Jumbo jetLocal resident Robert Love stands by one of the four engines of the plane on December 22, 1988, a day after the plane crashed.

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Of the 270 killed in the bombing, 190 of them were American, making the bombing one of the deadliest terrorist events in US history.Shoes from the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 by a roadside in the town of Lockerbie in Scotland, 22nd December 1988.Shoes from the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 by a roadside in the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 22, 1988.

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Source: Business Insider

Nearly two dozen homes were destroyed as the flaming wreckage of the Boeing 747 rained down upon Lockerbie.Ruined houses in the town of Lockerbie, after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York, December 1988.Ruined houses in the town of Lockerbie, after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York, December 1988.

Tom Stoddart/Getty Images

Source: UPI

As word reached loved ones of victims who were killed in the crash, one woman was photographed at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York in tears screaming, “My baby! My baby!”At JFK Airport here, a woman, screaming "My Baby! My Baby!" is led away after she learned that Pan Am Flight 103, with 258 people aboard, had crashed in Scotland.At JFK Airport, a woman is led away after she learned that Pan Am Flight 103 had crashed in Scotland.

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The day after the bombing, then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Lockerbie to meet with residents impacted by the tragedy. “The damage to this town is worse in daylight than we could possibly have seen at night,” Thatcher said at the time. “The destruction of the houses near the road and the crater and the amount of metal and debris all around, and the many houses that must have been affected is far worse than I thought, and one had no idea until one came here.”British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talks to local residents in the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, shortly after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, December 1988.British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talks to local residents in the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, shortly after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, December 1988.

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Source: ITN

Then-Prince of Wales Charles was seen visiting the Scottish town. Prince Andrew, Duke of York, also visited the disaster zone. “Very difficult to have any message for the people of Lockerbie, apart from my sincere condolences for what has happened,” Andrew said at the time. “I suppose statistically something like this has got to happen at some stage on a town. It is most sad and unfortunate that it’s had to happen to Lockerbie, and, of course, so close to Christmas.”Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, visits Lockerbie in ScotlandPrince Andrew, the Duke of York, visits Lockerbie in Scotland after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, December 1988.

Tom Stoddart/Getty Images

Source: ITN

On December 29, 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan delivered remarks on the tragedy at Los Angeles International Airport, condemning the attack and vowing to catch those responsible for the “savage and tragic” bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.President Reagan pledges to catch who was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103President Reagan pledges to catch the individual or group responsible for the “savage and tragic” bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and bring them to justice on Thursday, December 29, 1988, at Los Angeles International Airport.

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Six months after the tragedy, a New Jersey teen partnered with Pan Am to host a party for the children of Lockerbie whose Christmas celebrations were overshadowed by the tragedy.Family members and friends of the victims of flight 103 protested in front of Pan Am headquarters after the airline sponsored a party on the site of the crash where their loved ones died.Family members and friends of the victims of Flight 103 protested in front of Pan Am headquarters after the airline sponsored a party on the site of the crash where their loved ones died.

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Source: UPI

About 5,000 people attended the festivities that took place about a half-mile from the scene of the disaster, but it also prompted backlash as relatives of those who were killed in the crash protested against the “tasteless” celebration outside of the Pan Am headquarters in New York.Florence Bissett is consoled by relatives of other Pan Am flight 103 crash victims during a protest outside of Pan Am headquarters in New YorkFlorence Bissett, second from right, whose 21-year-old son, Kenneth, died in the December 21 crash of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland, is consoled by relatives of other crash victims during a protest outside of Pan Am headquarters in New York, on Saturday, June 3, 1989.

Adam Stoltman/AP

Source: UPI

During a groundbreaking ceremony for a Pan Am Flight 103 memorial at Arlington National Cemetery on December 21, 1993, then-US President Bill Clinton handed a shovel to six-year-old Nicky Bright, whose father was one of the 270 killed in the attack five years prior.Bill Clinton hands a shovel to six-year-old Nicky Bright of Brookline, MassachusettsBill Clinton hands a shovel to six-year-old Nicky Bright of Brookline, Massachusetts

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Along with Ma’sud, who was charged in 2020 in the 1988 bombing, two other Libyan men — Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah — were also charged in the attack by American and British governments in 1991.Libyan Khalifa Fhimah (C) escorted by security officers and journalists before appearing at the Supreme court for a hearing in connection with the 1988 december bombing of a Pan Am flighOn February 18, 1992, Libyan Khalifa Fhimah (center) is seen escorted by security officers and journalists before appearing for a hearing in connection with the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland.

MANOOCHER DEGHATI/AFP via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

But efforts to prosecute Fhimah and al-Megrahi were thwarted after Libya declined to send them to the US or UK for trial. Instead, they were tried in the Netherlands under Scottish law in 2000, 12 years after the 1988 attack.Lybian Abdel Basset al-Megrahi escorted by authoritiesLibyan Abdel Basset al-Megrahi is escorted by authorities. In 1991, he was charged in the 1988 explosion of Pan Am Flight 103.

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Source: The New York Times

Among the evidence presented at the trial was a replica of the suitcase that held a Toshiba cassette recorder, which contained a plastic explosive that led to the destruction of the Boeing 747.A mock-up Of the explosives-loaded Toshiba cassette recorder, which blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988A mock-up of the explosives-loaded Toshiba cassette recorder, which blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 is on display January 31, 2001 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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In 2001, Fhimah was acquitted after a Scottish court found there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was a member of Libyan intelligence involved in the bomb plot after the only evidence against him were his luggage tags and meeting with Megrahi prior to Pan Am Flight 103 taking off.ockerbie bombing defendant Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, center, receives visitors on February 2, 2001Lockerbie bombing defendant Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, center, receives visitors after Friday prayers February 2, 2001, at the Soukal Juima mosque in Tripoli, Libya.

Courtney Kealy/Newsmakers

Source: The New York Times, Scottish Courts and Tribunals

Al-Megrahi, however, was convicted on 270 counts of murder in the attack after the court found he was a Libyan intelligence agent “of fairly high rank” and traveled on a false passport, noting that his movements “form a real and convincing pattern” of his role in the bomb plot. He was later sentenced to life in prison, prompting his family members and supporters to protest the conviction.Family members of former Libyan secret agent Abdel Baset al-Megrahi demonstrate outside Camp Zeist for his releaseFamily members of former Libyan secret agent Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, convicted of masterminding the deadly 1988 plane bombing over Lockerbie, demonstrate outside Camp Zeist for his release January 23, 2002.

MARCEL ANTONISSE/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times, Scottish Courts and Tribunals

In 2003, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi accepted responsibility for the 1988 bombing and agreed to pay compensation to the families of victims, though he never admitted to personally ordering the terrorist attack.Protesters shout slogans against Libyan leader Muammar al-GaddafiProtesters shout slogans against Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi during a demonstration in front of the United Nations as the UN General Assembly in session in New York on September 23, 2009.

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Source: BBC

Eight years into serving his sentence, despite objections from victims’ loved ones and former President Barack Obama, al-Megrahi was released in 2009 on compassionate grounds by Scottish officials after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He died in 2012, and his family posthumously appealed his conviction in Scotland, which was rejected in 2021.British lawyer Aamer Anwar (R) reads a statement to the media in Glasgow on November 24, 2020 on the opening day of a posthumous appeal against the conviction of Libyan Abdelbaset Mohmet al-MegrahiBritish lawyer Aamer Anwar (right) reads a statement to the media in Glasgow on November 24, 2020 on the opening day of a posthumous appeal against the conviction of Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie.

ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, The New York Times

On the 30th anniversary of the bombing on December 21, 2018, people visited the memorial of the victims in Lockerbie and placed floral tributes to honor them.loral tributes are picured at a service to mark the 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie Air DisasterFloral tributes are pictured at a service to mark the 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie Air Disaster, the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the town, at the Memorial Garden, Dryfesdale Cemetery, Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 2018.

JANE BARLOW/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

In 2020, then-US Attorney General Bill Barr announced criminal charges, including destruction of aircraft resulting in death and destruction of a vehicle used in interstate commerce by means of an explosive resulting in death, against Mas’ud. The FBI said he had initially confessed to the bombing to Libyan law enforcement in 2012, but it is unclear if his confession — obtained in Libya — will uphold in US court.Attorney General Bill Barr holds a news conference to provide an update on the investigation of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103Then-US Attorney General Bill Barr holds a news conference to provide an update on the investigation of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103 on the 32nd anniversary of the attack, at the Department of Justice December 21, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times, Reuters

On Wednesday, December 14, 2022, Libya’s chief prosecutor Al-Siddiq Al-Sour announced the country is launching an investigation into the legality of Mas’ud’s extradition to the US. The probe came after a complaint from Mas’ud’s family blaming authorities in the Libyan capital of Tripoli for his alleged kidnapping and subsequent extradition. The US has no formal extradition agreement with Libya.The artist sketch depicts Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson, front left, watching as Whitney Minter, a public defender from the eastern division of Virginia, stands to represent Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-MarimiThe artist sketch depicts Assistant US Attorney Erik Kenerson (front left) watching as public defender Whitney Minter stands to represent Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, accused of making the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, in federal court in Washington, D.C., Monday, Dec. 12, 2022.

Dana Verkouteren via AP

Source: The Associated Press

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