US expected to announce new charges in 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing

The flight exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people onboard. Credit: PA

The US Justice Department expects to unseal charges in the coming days in connection with the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet that exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland, killing 270 people, according to a person familiar with the case.

The bombing of Flight 103, whose victims included dozens of American college students, spurred global investigations and produced sanctions against Libya, which ultimately surrendered intelligence officials wanted in the attacks for prosecution in Europe.

The announcement of a new prosecution would likely carry personal significance for Attorney General William Barr, who is leaving the position next week, but held the same job when the Justice Department revealed criminal charges nearly 30 years ago against the intelligence officials.

The head of the Justice Department’s criminal division at the time was Robert Mueller, who went on to serve as FBI director and as special counsel in charge of the investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

Wreaths and floral tributes left during the commemoration service in the Memorial Garden at Dryfesdale Cemetery in Lockerbie Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

A person familiar with the Justice Department’s plan who was not authorised to discuss it by name confirmed it to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The New York-bound flight exploded over Lockerbie less than an hour after take-off from London on December 21, 1988.

Among the Americans on board were 35 Syracuse University students flying home for Christmas after a semester abroad.

Megrahi was the only person convicted of the bombing Credit: Crown Office/PA

The attack, caused by a bomb packed into a suitcase, killed 259 people on the plane and 11 on the ground.

One man - former Libyan intelligence official Abdelbaset al-Megrahi - was convicted of the bombing, and a second Libyan suspect was acquitted of all charges.

Al-Megrahi was given a life sentence, but Scottish authorities released him on humanitarian grounds in 2009 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He later died in Tripoli.