White House 'deeply regrets' release of Pan Am bomber

The Obama administration expressed disappointment Thursday over the release of the man convicted of bombing Pan Am Fight 103 from a Scottish prison on "compassionate" grounds.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration "deeply regrets" the release of Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, who was convicted of the 1988 bombing over Scotland, which killed hundreds of travelers, including Americans.

"The United States deeply regrets the decision by the Scottish Executive to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi," Gibbs said in a statement.

A Scottish judge ordered al-Megrahi released on compassionate grounds. He is suffering from terminal prostate cancer.

The White House has continually urged against the native Libyan's release, Gibbs said.

"As we have expressed repeatedly to officials of the government of the United Kingdom and to Scottish authorities, we continue to believe that Megrahi should serve out his sentence in Scotland," Gibbs said.

U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder, along with White House officials, had been in extensive contact with counterparts in Scotland and the United Kingdom to communicate strong opposition to the release, the White House said.

"The United States is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Scottish Executive to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.

"We have continued to communicate our long-standing position to UK government officials and Scottish authorities that Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland," she added. "Today, we remember those whose lives were lost on December 21, 1988 and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live each day with the loss of their loved ones due to this heinous crime."

Seven senators had also asked Scotland to keep the convicted bomber in prison. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.Y.) said yesterday that al-Megrahi's release would heighten the risk for terrorist attacks in the U.S.

The White House, meanwhile, expressed sympathy for family members of the victims.

"On this day, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live every day with the loss of their loved ones," Gibbs said. "We recognize the effects of such a loss weigh upon a family forever."