Libya's Dbeibah admits state role in extraditing Lockerbie suspect to US

Disputed PM says Abu Agila Mohammad Masud's handover was lawful and his government simply co-operated

Abu Agila Mohammad Masud (2nd L) sits behind bars during a hearing at a courtroom in Tripoli November 16, 2014.  Reuters
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Libya's disputed Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah admitted his government was involved in the extradition to the US of a former Libyan intelligence officer accused of making the bomb that downed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988.

Mr Dbeibah named former intelligence officer Abu Agila Mohammad Masud as the bomb maker for the Lockerbie attack that killed 270 people.

Libya ‘‘had to wipe the mark of terrorism from the Libyan people’s forehead’’, he said, without providing any hard evidence or elaborating on his government’s role in Mr Masud’s handover.

The US and Libya have no formal extradition agreement.

Mr Dbeibah’s comments came a day after Libya’s chief public prosecutor Saddiq Al Sour announced there would be an investigation into Mr Masud’s extradition following a complaint from the suspect’s family.

The Tripoli-based prosecutor provided no details about the investigation.

In a televised broadcast on Thursday, Mr Dbeibah said Mr Masud’s extradition was lawful and his government was simply co-operating with an ‘‘international judicial framework to extradite accused citizens”.

It was his first comment on the extradition.

US authorities announced they had arrested Mr Masud on Sunday. The next day, Mr Masud appeared at a federal court in Washington and was charged with an act of international terrorism.

US officials did not explain how he was taken into their custody.

Mr Masud was ‘‘kidnapped” from his family home in Tripoli by armed men in November, according to a statement issued by his family shortly after the alleged incident.

It was unclear if any of the family witnessed his alleged abduction.

In that statement, the family condemned Libyan authorities for their silence over the incident and for any extradition process that could later take place.

Engulfed by over a decade of civil conflict, Libya is divided between the government of Mr Dbeibah in Tripoli and a rival government based in eastern Libya headed by disputed Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha.

In western Libya, militia groups have accumulated vast wealth and power from kidnappings and their control over the country’s lucrative human trafficking trade.

On Tuesday, Mr Bashagha called Mr Masud’s extradition illegal and called for his immediate release.

The New York-bound Pan Am flight exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie after taking off from London on December 21, 1988, killing 259 people on-board and 11 others on the ground.

About 190 American citizens were on the flight destined for New York.

Updated: June 20, 2023, 7:10 AM