CAIRO — Around midnight in mid-November, Libyan militia in two Toyota pickup trucks arrived at a residential building in a neighborhood of the capital of Tripoli. They stormed the house, bringing out a blindfolded man in his 70s.
Their target was former Libyan intelligence agent Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, wanted by the United States for allegedly making the bomb that brought down New York-bound Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, just days before Christmas in 1988 .The attack killed 259 people in the air and 11 on the ground.
Weeks after that night raid in Tripoli, the US announced Mas’ud was in its custody, to the surprise of many in Libya, which has been split between two rival governments, each backed by an array of militias and foreign powers.
Analysts say the Tripoli-based government responsible for handing over Mas’ud was likely seeking US goodwill and favor amid the power struggles in Libya.
Four Libyan security and government officials with direct knowledge of the operation recounted the journey that ended with Mas’ud in Washington.
The officials said it started with him being taken from his home in the Abu Salim neighborhood of Tripoli. He was transferred to the coastal city of Misrata and eventually handed over to American agents who flew him out of the country, they said.
The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. Several said the United States had been exerting pressure for months to see Mas’ud handed over.
“Every time they communicated, Abu Agila was on the agenda,” one official said.
In Libya, many questioned the legality of how he was picked up, just months after his release from a Libyan prison, and sent to the US Libya and the US did not have a standing agreement