CIA Chief Visits Libya After Lockerbie Suspect Handover

Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) announced on Thursday that CIA Director William Burns met with PM Abdul Hamid Dbeibah just weeks after Tripoli authorities handed over a Libyan suspect allegedly involved in the 1988 Pan-Am Flight 103.

CIA Chief Visits Libya After Lockerbie Suspect Handover
Image credit: Getty Images [via Al-Monitor]

Facts

  • Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) announced on Thursday that CIA Director William Burns met with PM Abdul Hamid Dbeibah just weeks after Tripoli authorities handed over a Libyan suspect allegedly involved in the 1988 Pan-Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland to the US.
  • The GNU said that they discussed cooperation as well as economic and security issues, posting a hand-shaking photo of the two on one of its social media pages. It's not clear when exactly the meeting took place.
  • Libyan media reported that Burns also met with Khalifa Haftar, the eastern Libya-based military leader who has marched on Tripoli in an attempt to overthrow the GNU in the past.
  • Burns's trip was the first visit by a CIA director to Libya since the 2012 attack against a US mission in Benghazi that killed the US ambassador and three others a little over a year after NATO-backed rebels overthrew Moammar Gaddafi's government in 2011.
  • Libya has seen on-and-off internal conflict between eastern and western factions since 2014. Both sides are supported by a variety of foreign powers, including the US and Russia, and armed militias of foreign and domestic origin.
  • The extradition of the alleged Pan-Am Flight 103 bomber, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi, sparked public outrage from the Libyan public as the country doesn't have an extradition treaty with Washington.

Sources: Al-monitor, Associated Press, Al Jazeera, and Reuters.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Guardian. Everything about the CIA's actions in Libya is highly suspicious and perhaps even illegal. Besides the fact that the US doesn't have an extradition treaty with Libya, it seems that Washington acquired Mas'ud via a brutal local militia that essentially kidnapped him from his home. How does the US expect to promote the rule of law and stability in Libya when it's actively undermining it?
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by CBS. Though the details of how exactly Mas'ud was taken into custody might be murky, his arrest was a breakthrough for justice and the rule of law. Mas'ud is a murderer, and the families of his victims have the right to see justice. The Libyan government said as early as 2021 that it was open to extradition, so it's no surprise that such an action would be taken in conjunction with local authorities.