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World Briefing / Scotland

Officials defend release of Lockerbie bomber

August 24, 2009|Times Wire Reports

Scotland's government defended itself against sharp criticism from the U.S. over the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds.

Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi, a Libyan convicted of killing 270 people in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, was released Thursday because he is terminally ill with prostate cancer. He has returned to his native Libya to die.

His release was met with outrage by some of the families of the U.S. victims of the bombing and criticized by President Obama as "highly objectionable." FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said in a letter to Scotland's government that Megrahi's release would "give comfort to terrorists all over the world."

But Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told BBC radio that it was wrong to assume that all those affected by the bombing were opposed to Megrahi's release. "I understand the huge and strongly held views of the American families, but that's not all the families who were affected by Lockerbie," Salmond said. "As you're well aware, a number of the families, particularly in the U.K., take a different view and think that we made the right decision."

The explosion of a bomb hidden in the cargo hold of the flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, killed all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground in Britain's worst terrorist attack.

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