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The man who may have solved the Lockerbie bombing

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Just two days after the third and final part of filmmaker Ken Dornstein's documentary 'My Brother’s Bomber' aired, Scottish prosecutors announced that they had identified two Libyans as suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, better known as the Lockerbie bombing.

Coincidence? Dornstein thinks not.

"Obviously I don't know what I don't know about what governments collect and what their investigation has amounted to," Dornstein says. "But my strong suspicion is we wouldn't be hearing anything about it without the work that I've done in the Frontline film. The timing is probably not a coincidence."

It's entirely possible — in fact it's probable — that Dornstein has followed the nearly 30-year investigation into the Lockerbie bombing more closely than anyone. That's because he has a personal connection to the case.

Dornstein was 19 years old and visiting home for the holidays on December 21, 1988, when Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb over the small town of Lockerbie, Scotland. All 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed, as well as 11 people on the ground. His 25-year-old brother was on board.


Ken Dornstein and his brother David.

Credit: Frontline

Dornstein grew up and became a documentary filmmaker, and spent years verifying key details and tracking down anyone who might know anything. In 2011, shortly after a coup ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Dornstein traveled to Libya and began knocking on doors.

"I saw an opportunity after many years of unresolved questions to slip over the border into Libya and actually, with a list of names, go talk to people instead of just getting a story that existed on paper that you could never verify ... There was nothing about it that was easy, and there's nothing about it that I could've expected other reporters or even governments to do if they didn't have real skin in the game as I did."

From the outside, it may be easy to paint the journalist as a man obsessed with solving a decades-old mystery. But Dorstein says there's more to the story.

Lockerbie context (Storyact)

More about the Lockerbie Bombing

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August 24, 2009

"It turns out that my work has veered in the direction of doing international reporting and doing this kind of journalism. Obviously it had been in my mind to pursue it and I never could drop it, because, unlike other journalists, I did have this personal connection. But when the moment came, I wanted to use the tools of journalism, and I wanted to film the process. I wanted to be transparent. I wanted to come face to face with someone. I wanted them to be seen on camera because I wanted the story — the simple truth of who did what — to be recorded in a way that people couldn't deny and that would put to rest whatever remaining questions there were."

'My Brother's Bomber' is centered around the second of the two suspects Dornstein says were identified by the Scottish prosecutors yesterday: Abu Agila Mas'ud. Mas'ud, Dornstein believes, was the bomb expert behind the attack. Dornstein thinks that if the investigators got any information from him, it was Mas'ud's name.

But as for the next step, Dornstein says it's out of his hands.

"I went as far as I could as a filmmaker, as a brother as a journalist. I think now it's in the hands of states, and what they can make out of it."

Listen to our full interview above, and watch the trailer for 'My Brother’s Bomber':


From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International

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