White House Blasts 'Disgusting' Crowds Embracing Lockerbie Bomber in Libya

The White House blasted the jubilant, flag-waving Libyan crowds that greeted Pan Am bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was convicted in the 1988 killing of 270 people but is being embraced in Libya as a returning hero.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the elaborate homecoming in Tripoli for al-Megrahi was "outrageous and disgusting" — offensive to all the families of those killed in the 1988 Lockerbie attack.

"I think it was highly objectionable," President Obama said when asked for his reaction.

As al-Megrahi woke up a free man Friday morning, Scots expressed their "shame" at their government's early release of the Libyan national, who was set free on compassionate grounds and flown back to die of cancer at home rather than behind bars.

"I have never been ashamed to see my country's flag waved before, but to see it misused to celebrate mass murder is outrageous," Russell Brown, a member of Parliament, told The Scotsman. "This man is convicted of murdering 270 people in my part of Scotland and that conviction stands."

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the attack that killed 259 on board the airplane and left 11 people dead on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland, at its crash site. He was granted early release on compassionate grounds because of a terminal case of prostate cancer.

"[The] government has made a mistake of international proportions," said David Mundell, a member of Parliament whose constituency includes Lockerbie. "These reports (of the flag being waved) are sickening."

Residents of the small Scottish town were outraged by al-Megrahi's release, The Scotsman reported. The self-styled "Baby of Lockerbie" described the decision as "quite disgusting."

Twenty-year-old Aimee Guthrie, who was born within an hour of the disaster, said she would have preferred it if al-Megrahi had been left to die in jail.

Britain's foreign secretary David Miliband denounced the jubilant crowds and celebrations that greeted the convicted killer on the ground in Libya, and said the eyes of the world were on the country now.

"I think it's very important that Libya knows — and certainly we have told them — that how the Libyan government handles itself in the next few days after the arrival of Mr. (al-)Megrahi will be very significant in the way the world views Libya's re-entry into the civilized community of nations," Miliband said.

The United States also objected strenuously to the release of al-Megrahi, who spent roughly 11 days behind bars for each victim in the bombing. The White House declared it "deeply" regretted the Scottish decision, as President Obama warned Libya not to give him a hero's welcome.

Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter died along with 269 others when the Pan Am jet exploded above Lockerbie in 1988, told The Scotsman, "I think a hero's welcome is entirely inappropriate in the circumstances.

"He has been released on compassionate grounds, but he remains a convicted man. His return to Tripoli should not have been handled in this way."

Click here for more on this story from The Scotsman.