TRIPOLI, Libya -- He was the embodiment of one of modern Libya's darkest chapters, a man synonymous with horrifying scenes of wreckage, broken families and a plane that fell out of the sky a generation ago.

His name, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was little known, compared with the single word that his deeds represented: Lockerbie.

Seven months after his patron dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, was slain in a revolution that began a new chapter for his homeland, al-Megrahi died yesterday of cancer, leaving behind countless unanswered questions about the midair attack in 1988 that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland.

All 259 people on board, mostly Americans, and 11 on the ground were killed.

"I am an innocent man," al-Megrahi insisted, most recently in his final interview in December, in the final stages of prostate cancer. "I am about to die and I ask now to be left in peace with my family."

But his death at age 60 leaves no peace for families who still question his guilt and whether others in one of history's deadliest terror attacks went unpunished. Scotland's government said it would continue to investigate the bombing, even after al-Megrahi's death.

Al-Megrahi's death comes about three years after Scottish authorities released him on humanitarian grounds, to the outrage of victims' relatives.

At the time, doctors predicted he had only three months to live after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He ended up serving eight years of a life sentence.

Al-Megrahi kept a strict silence after his return, living in the family villa surrounded by high walls in a posh Tripoli neighborhood, mostly bedridden or taking a few steps with a cane.

The bomb blew up the jetliner as it flew over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988.

The New York-bound flight originated at Heathrow Airport in London and many of the victims were American college students flying home for Christmas.

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