Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer given a life sentence for his role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988, has died, finally.
More well known in recent years for receiving a hero’s welcome after he was released from prison to die at home from prostate cancer, his other claim to fame is that he outlived his former boss, Moammar Gadhafi, who died more violently.
Few would have thought that possible, particularly given that when he was released from prison in 2009, he was expected to die within three months. Whether he simply beat the odds to live until last weekend or his diagnosis was manipulated so he could be released will likely remain part of the intrigue of his life and of the plot that shocked the world and guaranteed his infamy.
As an Associated Press story in Monday’s Mercury explained, Megrahi was linked to the plot by a piece of plastic the size of a fingernail and the burned remains of a shirt — a shirt he had bought in Malta and that had been packed in the same suitcase as the bomb. The tiny bit of plastic happened to be part of a Swiss timing device identical to timers Libya had bought before the bombing.
Megrahi in the years before the bombing was an agent in Libya’s intelligence network. His cover — certainly an effective one — was his work as chief of security for Libyan Arab Airlines; that provided knowledge essential for the plot.
Megrahi was 60 when he died. He will be missed by loved ones, and, presumably, by the extremists who regard killing 270 innocent people as an admirable thing to do.