Libyan dissidents and relatives of those killed in the bombing of an airliner over Scotland in 1988 said Thursday that Col. Moammar Gadhafi's former foreign minister must be held accountable for his suspected role in acts of terrorism, despite his defection from the regime.
Musa Kusa, who fled to Britain on Wednesday, has been linked by Western intelligence officials to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the bombing of UTA Flight 772 over Niger in 1989.
Scottish officials said Thursday they want to interview Mr. Kusa in connection with the Lockerbie case.
Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, was the only person convicted in the bombing. Mr. Kusa played a role in negotiating Mr. al-Megrahi's release from a Scottish prison on Aug. 20, 2009. The bombing of the airliner killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.
Frank Duggan, president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, which represents relatives of those killed in the terrorist act, believes Mr. Kusa is key to the Lockerbie investigation.
"This man knows, because he was part of the whole criminal enterprise, all the facts surrounding the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103," Mr. Duggan said.
"He knows who authorized it, who made the bomb, who paid for it, how it was transported to Malta and how it was put on the plane. He has a wealth of information that he can provide, not only [to] our intelligence agencies but also our prosecutors."
Brian Flynn, the group's vice president whose brother was among those killed over Lockerbie, said Mr. Kusa, also a former Libyan spymaster, should be treated as a suspect in the case.
"Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was convicted not as a lone terrorist but as an agent of Libyan intelligence. Musa Kusa was in charge of Libyan intelligence," Mr. Flynn said.
"The reality is no Libyan intelligence agent would do anything without the head of the intelligence knowing about it."
Libyan dissidents said that Mr. Kusa as former head of Libyan intelligence played a role in many acts of international terrorism.
Nasser Buisier, a Boston-based Libyan dissident who met Mr. Kusa in the 1970s, described the former minister as "an opportunist who always wanted to be at the top."
"He would kill for it," Mr. Buisier said.
Mr. Kusa's defection has made it harder for other members of the regime to leave, according to a former Libyan official.
Ali S. Aujali, who quit his post as Libya's ambassador in Washington in protest against the regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, said members of the regime currently in Libya are under heavy guard to block any attempts to defect.
"After Musa Kusa's defection, these people are under very heavy guard by Gadhafi's forces. It will be very difficult for them [to defect] except if they manage to escape," Mr. Aujali told The Washington Times.
The regime was hit by another important defection on Thursday.
Ali Abdessalam Treki, a former foreign minister picked by Col. Gadhafi to serve as his ambassador to the United Nations in New York, fled to Egypt on Thursday.
In a phone interview from Cairo, Mr. Treki told The Times he was tired of seeing Libyans suffer.
"When I see my country suffering and when I see the bloodshed continuing, that worried me a lot. We want peace, a cease-fire and to try to save the country," he said.
Col. Gadhafi issued a defiant statement Thursday after defections by Mr. Kusa and Mr. Treki, accusing Western leaders of being "affected by power madness" and wanting to create another war between Muslims and Christians, according to an Associated Press report.
Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador, was the first Libyan official to ditch the regime after the start of the pro-democracy uprising in February. His boss, U.N. Ambassador Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, and Mr. Aujali soon followed.
Mr. Treki declined to comment on Mr. Kusa's defection or whether others in the regime are planning their departures.
He also refused to say whether he believed it was time for Col. Gadhafi to step down.
"It doesn't matter who is in power," he said. "The most important thing is that we stop fighting."
In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Mr. Kusa is not being offered any immunity from British or international justice.
"His resignation shows that Gadhafi's regime, which has already seen significant defections to the opposition, is fragmented, under pressure and crumbling from within. Gadhafi must be asking himself who will be the next to abandon him," Mr. Hague said.
A Libyan dissident who quit the regime in the 1980s, said on the condition of anonymity, that Mr. Kusa would likely provide a lot of useful information on the morale within Col. Gadhafi's inner circle.
"But the fact remains that he is a criminal, and it is essential he gets a fair trial and proper judgment," he said. "People like him who commit such heinous crimes and just go free because they abandoned the regime — that would be a serious mistake."
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