Justice for Pan Am blast families

A memorial service remembering the 270 people who died on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Two Twin County residents died in the bombing. Courtesy of Tribune News Service

HUDSON — Two Twin County college students died in the bombing of Pan American Flight 103 in 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and their deaths are being remembered with the filing of criminal charges Monday against a Libyan man accused of making the bomb.

J.P. Flynn, 21, of Hunter, and Christopher Andrew Jones, 20, of Claverack, were among 270 people killed in the bombing.

On Monday, 32 years after the explosion, Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi (Masud), was charged with destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and destruction of a vehicle used in interstate or foreign commerce by an explosion resulting in death.

The deadly attack on Dec. 21, 1988, blasted apart a Boeing 747 just 38 minutes after the plane took off from Heathrow Airport in London bound for JFK International Airport in New York City.

“We always knew there were more people behind the bombing other than the one person convicted so we’re thrilled to see that the length of time and the arms of justice don’t stop after 32 years,” Flynn’s brother, Brian Flynn, of Hunter, said Tuesday. “What it also says is that these career civil servants and the Justice Department have been working tirelessly to try to bring these people to justice. I’m thrilled to see people work so selflessly and so focused on what’s right.”

Flynn said the Pan Am flight bombing was the largest terrorist attack on the United States prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

John Patrick (J.P.) Flynn was born Nov. 24, 1967. At the time of the flight he was a Colgate University junior majoring in geography with a minor in economics. He joined the Syracuse University Division of International Programs Abroad program for a semester of study in London. According to the Syracuse University Pan Am Flight 103 archive, J.P. Flynn was a member of the Kappa Delta Ro fraternity at Colgate and a member of the basketball team.

“It’s great to see that people don’t forget, and that they are going to hold people accountable even all these years later,” Brian Flynn said. “So I think the real heroes are those people working tirelessly in the Justice Department to ensure that justice is done.”

Former Claverack resident Christopher Andrew Jones, 20, was also aboard the ill-fated Pan Am flight.

Jones, a Syracuse University junior majoring in English and history, was returning to his home in Claverack, for Christmas, according to the Syracuse University Pan Am Flight 103 archive.

Jones wrote for the campus newspaper, The Daily Orange, participated in intramural sports, and was active with the university radio station, WAER.

He was a graduate of Hudson Senior High School.

“Hudson alumni, Christopher Jones, was tragically on board Pan Am Flight 103,” Hudson City School District Superintendent Maria Lagana Suttmeier said Tuesday. “Our hearts and thoughts are with his family. We wish them peace that surpasses all understanding.”

U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced the charges Monday in what may have been his last public conference before he leaves office.

“Our message to other terrorists around the world is this — you will not succeed — if you attack Americans, no matter where you are, no matter how long it takes, you will be pursued to the ends of the earth until justice is done,” Barr said in a statement.

Prosecutors said they will seek to extradite Masud to the United States to stand trial. Masud is a former senior Libyan intelligence officer, according to officials.

Authorities allege the plot unfolded in late 1988. At that time, Libyan intelligence officials directed Masud to fly to Malta with a suitcase he had been instructed to prepare which was capable of carrying concealed explosives, according to a criminal complaint.

He met two co-conspirators in Malta — Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah — and remained there for several days, said officials.

On the morning of the explosion, Masud set the timer on the device in the suitcase to go off 11 hours later, as his co-conspirators had instructed him, according to the complaint.

The suitcase, a “medium-sized” Samsonite, was placed on a flight in Malta to Frankfurt, Germany. Through a feeder flight, it made its way to London’s Heathrow Airport, where it was loaded onto the Pan Am flight bound for the United States, officials said.

Three months after the attack, Masud and Fhimah met with then-Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and other officials who thanked them for carrying out a great national duty against the Americans, authorities said.

Qaddafi declared the operation a total success.

Al-Megrahi is the only man to be convicted in the terrorist attack.

But in August 2009, the 57-year-old al-Megrahi was released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds after serving eight years of his life sentence.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer; doctors said he had less than three months to live, paving the way for his return to Libya.

Tribune News Service contributed to this article.

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