The US has announced charges against a Libyan suspected of making the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
Abu Agila Mohammad Masud has been charged with terrorism-related crimes, Attorney General William Barr said on Monday, 32 years on from the atrocity.
The deadly bomb attack on the Boeing 747 killed 270 people, including 190 American citizens.
Prosecutors will seek the extradition of Mr. Masud to stand trial in the US.
The US claims Mr. Masud is an ex-Libyan intelligence operative. He allegedly carried out the attack on the orders of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The bombing of the London to New York flight remains the deadliest terrorist incident ever to have taken place in the UK, and the second deadliest air attack in US history.
Eleven people on the ground in Scotland were also killed. The victims included 35 study abroad US students who were returning home for Christmas.
The new charges bring Mr. Barr’s role in this lengthy terrorism investigation full circle, as he was also US Attorney General when charges were first announced against two Libyan suspects in 1991.
Back then, serving under President George HW Bush, Mr. Barr tasked his criminal division head Robert Mueller to look into the bombing. Mr. Mueller is now best known for leading the inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Both Mr. Barr and Mr. Mueller have taken part in remembrance events with families over the years.
Police Scotland’s chief constable, Iain Livingstone, said the charges were a “significant development” and that they will “continue to work closely” with the US and other international authorities. He said it was “inappropriate to comment further” at this time.
Mr. Barr said he was “pleased to announce that the United States has filed criminal charges against the third conspirator Abu Agila Mohammad Masud for his role in the bombing”.
“Let there be no mistake, no amount of time or distance will stop the United States and our Scottish partners in pursuing justice in this case.”
Mr. Barr said the “breakthrough” that led to Monday’s charges came when authorities learned he was being held in Libya. Mr. Barr said Libyan authorities provided a copy of their interview with Mr. Masud to US officials.
He said Mr. Masud allegedly built the bomb and worked with two other co-conspirators. He said Gaddafi had also personally thanked Mr. Masud “for the successful attack on the United States”.
“At long last this man responsible for killing Americans and many others will be subject to justice for his crimes,” Mr. Barr said.
The attorney general added that he is “optimistic” that the Libyan government will hand Mr. Masud over.
For Bill Barr, this has been a long time coming.
Twenty-nine years ago, as acting Attorney General, he announced the first indictments of suspects in the Lockerbie case.
Today, in one of his last acts as Donald Trump’s top legal officer, he said events had come “full circle,” with the unsealing of charges against Abu Agila Mohammad Masud.
“Terrorists have to know that eventually we will get them,” Barr told reporters.
Over the years, the bombing has spawned any number of theories about who was responsible, with fingers pointing, at one time or another, at Iran, Syria, Palestinian militants and, finally, Libya.
But US and British officials have long been convinced Lockerbie was the work of Libyan agents, working under orders from the country’s former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
Today’s charges could, finally, lay other theories to rest.