NEW YORK — The head of a group of relatives of Americans killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, saying newly returned indictments show that the incident was an act of state-sponsored terrorism by the government of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, called Thursday for military retaliation against Libya.
Bert Ammerman, president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, said that President Bush promised the group two years ago that he would respond with action similar to the 1986 bombing raid on Libya "if the fingerprints of state-sponsored terrorism are traced to Pan Am Flight 103."
"The issue is clear," Ammerman said at a late afternoon news conference at the Plaza Hotel in mid-town Manhattan. "For the first time there is evidence that leads toward state-sponsored terrorism. It (the bombing) was a military strike against the American flag on Pan Am Flight 103."
He added: "It's time for President Bush and his advisers, and (British) Prime Minister (John) Major and his advisers, to make some very hard decisions and accept the leadership role."
However, others in the group said that there was no consensus among the relatives on the question of retaliatory action.
"I would rather the government take some sort of economic sanction," said Jane Schultz of Ridgefield, Conn., whose son, Thomas, 20, was among those killed. "Just killing someone else because they killed 270 people--that's not in my nature. You'd have to live with that the rest of your life."
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said that the United States has not ruled out the possibility of military retaliation. "We don't rule out any option," he said.
The relatives praised the police work in the investigation but also demanded full public disclosure of the evidence leading to the indictments, saying such a step would help them resolve the many questions that have nagged them since the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.
"Everything that's happened in the last three years has helped me deal with the loss," said Peter Lowenstein of Mendham, N.J., whose son, Alexander, 21, a Syracuse University senior, was among the victims. "But it's not all over now."
Barbara Swynenburg of West Nyack, N.Y., said that the indictments brought a strong measure of relief. "I'm pleased, I'm gratified, I'm optimistic," she said. "But this is just the tip of the iceberg."
Her son, Mark, 29, an investment banker for the London office of Goldman Sachs, was among the 270 people killed in the bombing, including 11 on the ground.
The charges against the Libyan intelligence officers brought mixed feelings to many other relatives across the country.
"I'm very disappointed," said Susan Cohen of Port Jervis, N.Y., whose daughter, Theodora, 20, a Syracuse University drama student, was among the victims. "The investigation has been going on for three years and what do they give us? The names of two murderous thugs who placed the bomb."
But she added: "Any indictment is better than no indictment."
"This is just another roller coaster ride for us," said Dan Malowski, of Haddonfield, N.J. "The next phase is to corner the Administration on what they're going to do. That's the consensus of all the families."
Malowski lost his daughter, Diane, a 30-year-old stockbroker, in the bombing.
John Frick Root, a Manhattan attorney, said he fears that the Administration is covering up Syrian and Iranian involvement in the bombing, which claimed the life of his wife, Hanne-Maria Maijala, who had turned 26 the week before the incident.
"The White House thinks that a barrel of Middle Eastern oil is worth buckets of American blood," he said. "Hafez Assad, the dictator of Syria, has murdered more Americans than Saddam Hussein."
Eileen Monetti of Cherry Hill, N.J., whose son, Rick, 20, was returning home for vacation from studies at Syracuse University's London campus when the bombing took place, said the families of the victims would not cease their efforts to bring the perpetrators of the bombing to justice.