Families of Lockerbie victims still seek answers

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence official, has died of cancer, his family said.

New York: The death of the only man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing has left some victims` relatives relieved and others raising questions about his guilt and whether others went unpunished.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence official, died yesterday of cancer, his family said. His death renewed pleas from some victims` relatives for further investigation of the bombing.

"It closes a chapter but it doesn`t close the book. We know he wasn`t the only person involved," Frank Dugan, president of the group Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, said from Alexandria, Virginia.

Megrahi was convicted of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town on December 21, 1988. The bombing killed 270 people, many of them New York and New Jersey residents.

Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi handed over Megrahi and a second suspect to Scottish authorities after years of punishing UN sanctions.

In 2003, Gaddafi acknowledged responsibility, though not guilt, for the bombing and paid compensation of about USD 2.7 billion to victims` families.
The families had banded together after the bombing, immersing themselves in terrorist policy, international relations and airline security and lobbying for compensation from the Libyan government.

Susan Cohen of Cape May Court House, New Jersey, whose daughter was among the Syracuse University students on the flight, said Megrahi deserved no compassion.

"The fact that he was able to get out and live with his family these past few years is an appalling miscarriage of justice. There was no excuse for that," Cohen said yesterday.

"He should have died in the Scottish prison. He should have been tried in the United States and faced capital punishment."

The views of other victims` families on Megrahi`s role in the bombing vary widely.

"Megrahi is the 271st victim of Lockerbie," said David Ben-Ayreah, who represents some British families of victims. He attended the trial and still believes Megrahi was not responsible for the bombing.

But Eileen Walsh, a Glen Rock, New Jersey resident whose father, brother and sister died in the explosion said she was "very happy" to hear about Megrahi`s death. She had just attended Mass yesterday when she received numerous text messages.

"I`m glad he`s gone, but there`s no real closure. There`s nothing but a bad taste in my mouth," she said.

Megrahi`s death should not be an excuse to stop trying to find out who was behind the bombing, Cohen said. She called on US and British officials to "dig even deeper" into the case.

The Scottish government said yesterday that it will continue investigating the bombing.