Watch CBS News

Accused Lockerbie bomber pleads not guilty to charges in deadly 1988 blast

Lockerbie bombing suspect charged in U.S. court
Lockerbie bombing suspect Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud charged in U.S. court 04:00

Washington – The man accused of being one of the masterminds behind the 1988 bombing of a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 190 Americans pleaded not guilty to three charges in federal court on Wednesday. 

Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud — charged with two counts of destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and another related count — appeared in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., wearing a green prison uniform and face mask. He communicated with the court through an Arabic interpreter. 

Mas'ud's public defender, Whitney Minter, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and requested a jury trial on the three federal counts. 

On Dec. 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was traveling from London to New York when it exploded over Lockerbie, killing all 259 people onboard and 11 more on the ground. It remains the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.K.

Some of the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 after it crashed onto the town of Lockerbie in Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988.
Some of the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 after it exploded and crashed into the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988.  Bryn Colton/Getty Images

U.S. prosecutors alleged the defendant, who has ties to Libya and Tunisia, worked for decades as an explosives expert for Libya's intelligence service and was directed by officials there to prepare and time a suitcase bomb to detonate when the American-bound flight was in midair. Mas'ud's co-conspirator then placed the suitcase on an airport conveyor belt in Malta, where it was loaded onto the aircraft, charging documents allege.

Mas'ud was first charged in 2020 and later indicted in December 2022 before he was transferred to U.S. custody. 

According to the initial 2020 complaint, Mas'ud admitted to building the bomb in an interview with Libyan investigators, and said the country's longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi "thanked him and other members of the team for their successful attack on the United States." 

In previous court hearings, his public defender revealed that Mas'ud had no access to financial resources in the U.S. and relied on his children to support him and his wife in Libya. His family has been looking into hiring a private attorney to handle his case, which is currently under the supervision of the public defender.

Prosecutors said each charge could carry a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Mas'ud is being detained in Alexandria, Virginia, and a detention hearing is set for later this month. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.