Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, the only person ever convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing which killed 270 people, died Sunday afternoon at his home in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, his family said. He was 60.
Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2001 for carrying out the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which crashed in the Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, killing 270 people. He was released in August 2009 from a Scottish prison on 'compassionate grounds' after doctors claimed he had only several months to live.
The decision to release Megrahi was extremely controversial and was met with anger in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries. But the release also divided families as some were convinced Megrahi was behind the attack while others believed he may have been innocent and wrongly convicted. Scenes showing celebrations in Libya when Megrahi returned to live there with his family caused further anger.
Megrahi's sister, Amna, told the state-run Libyan News Agency (WAL) that her brother had lost consciousness on Friday and his condition further worsened on Saturday. She said Megrahi died at around 1 p.m. local time on Sunday and is expected to be buried at Tripoli's main cemetery on Monday, following early afternoon prayers.
The response to Sunday's news was mixed among relatives of Lockerbie victims. "I detest Megrahi, he was monstrous, and I hope his death was extremely painful and horrible," said Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, according to ITV News.
But David Ben-Ayreah, a spokesman for the families of Lockerbie victims, told ITV News that he believes Megrahi was also a victim of the disaster. "His death is to be deeply regretted," he said. "As someone who attended the trial I have never taken the view that Megrahi was guilty. Megrahi is the 271st victim of Lockerbie."
In February, writer John Ashton released a book featuring exclusive interviews with Megrahi in which he protests his innocence and insists he was the victim of dirty politics" and a flawed investigation. "I know that I'm innocent," Megrahi is quoted as saying in the book. "Here, for the first time, is my true story: how I came to be blamed for Britain's worst mass murder, my nightmare decade in prison and the truth about my controversial release. Please read it and decide for yourself."
In August 2011, CNN correspondent Nic Robertson was able to find the home of Megrahi where his family allowed the reporter to see the convicted terrorist. His son, Khaled al-Megrahi, explained only oxygen and fluids had kept him alive, as he stopped eating despite regaining consciousness once in a while. Furthermore, Khaled al-Megrahi said they were not able to see any doctors to check his condition.
"Nobody can know how long he will stay alive, nobody know," Khaled al-Megrahi told Robertson in August 2011.
Earlier in 2011, former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil told Swedish newspaper Expressen that he had evidence that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was the person who gave the order to bomb Pan Am Flight 103, which was on a daily scheduled transatlantic flight from London Heathrow Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
"I have evidence that Gaddafi ordered the Lockerbie bombing," Al-Jleil was cited as saying by Expressen in February 2011, without giving other details. "To hide this, he did everything in his power to get Megrahi back from Scotland."