By Rami Al-Shaheibi And Lee Keath, AP
BENGHAZI, Libya–Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer who was the only person ever convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, died Sunday nearly three years after he was released from a Scottish prison to the outrage of the relatives of the attack’s 270 victims. He was 60. Scotland released al-Megrahi on Aug. 20, 2009, on compassionate grounds to let him return home to die after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. At the time, doctors predicted he had only three months to live. Anger over the release was further stoked by the hero’s welcome he received on his arrival in Libya — and by subsequent allegations that London had sought his release to preserve business interests in the oil-rich North African nation, strongly denied by the British and Scottish governments. After his release, he kept a strict silence, living in the family villa surrounded by high walls in a posh Tripoli neighborhood, mostly bedridden or taking a few steps with a cane.
His son, Khaled al-Megrahi, confirmed that he died in Tripoli in a telephone interview but hung up before giving more details. To the end, al-Megrahi insisted he had nothing to do with the bombing, which killed 270 people, most of them Americans. “I am an innocent man,” al-Megrahi said in his last interview, published in several British papers in December. “I am about to die and I ask now to be left in peace with my family.” The fall of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in August — and his death two months later — has so far done nothing to dispel the mysteries that surround the case even after al-Megrahi’s conviction. The U.S., Britain, and prosecutors in his trial contended that he did not act alone and carried out the bombing at the behest of Libyan intelligence. After Gadhafi’s fall, Britain asked Libya’s new rulers to help fully investigate but they put off any probe for the forseeable future.