Libyan Abu Agila Mohammad Masud has been charged in a US court in relation to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing which killed 270 people.
The intelligence official faces two criminal counts over the bombing on a London to New York flight 32 years ago today, which killed mostly American citizens.
In 2001, another Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was convicted of the attack on Pan Am flight 103 after it exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
He was given a life sentence, but was released on humanitarian grounds in 2009 due to suffering prostate cancer. He later died in Tripoli. Another man was charged over the bombing and later aquitted.
Among the Americans on board were 35 Syracuse University students returning home for Christmas.
Rev John Mosey, the father of 19-year-old Lockerbie victim Helga Mosey, called the timing of the US announcement “bizarre, disrespectful, insensitive and extremely ill considered” given the anniversary day is “special to many of us”.
He added: “Why exactly, when the Attorney General is about to leave office, has he waited 32 years to bring charges?”
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Masud was in custody in Libya and that the outgoing Mr Barr was seeking his extradition to the US to stand trial.
That development received a guarded welcome by Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing.
He had told Sky News: “I’m all in favour of whatever he’s got to tell us being examined in a court, of course I am.
“The more people who look at the materials we have available the better because there are only two things that we seek, really.
“One is the question of why those lives were not protected in view of all the warnings and the second is: what does our government and the American government really know about who is responsible for murdering them.”
In annoucing the charges, Mr Barr said the “breakthrough” arose when law enforcement learned in 2016 that the “third conspirator” had been arrested after the collapse of the regime led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and that he was interviewed by Libyan officials in 2012.
“According to the criminal complaint affidavit, Masud built the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103,” he said.
In a message to the victims’ families, he said: “I know that the small step we take today cannot compensate for the sorrow you feel to this day.
“But I hope that you will find some measure of solace in knowing that we… have never relented and will never relent in the pursuit of justice for you and for your loved ones.”
The case is likely to be of special significance to Mr Barr, as it is the second time he has overseen charges linked with the bombing.
He held the same job when the Justice Department indicted Megrahi and a second Libyan, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, for building a plastic bomb with a timer before hiding it inside a suitcase and planting it on an Air Malta flight.
The suitcase was then transferred to Pan Am flight 103.
The attack was the latest flare of tension between Libya and Western countries, including the US.
In 1992, the UN Security Council imposed arms sales and air travel sanctions against Libya to force Gaddafi, the country’s then leader, into surrendering the two suspects.
Fhimah was acquitted, but Megrahi was jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years.
The sanctions were later lifted after Libya agreed to a $2.7bn (£1.95bn) compensation deal with the victims’ families.
#1 Football Merchandise & Souvenirs Store
West Ham United