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Lockerbie anniversary remembered

The 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing have been remembered on the 25th anniversary of the atrocity.

Memorial events were held in the town in southern Scotland, at Westminster Abbey in London and at Arlington National Cemetery in the US, where most of those killed were from.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and Lord Wallace, Advocate General for Scotland, joined families of those killed and members of the community to lay wreaths at Dryfesdale cemetery in Lockerbie.

An evening service themed around 'looking forward' was held later at the town's Dryfesdale Church.

At the same time, hundreds of people gathered at commemorative services at Westminster Abbey and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC.

Pan Am flight 103 was on its way from London to New York when it exploded above Lockerbie, on the evening of December 21 1988, killing everyone on board and 11 people on the ground.

Mr Salmond paid tribute to the community spirit shown in the aftermath.

He said: ''Out of disaster, there are the bonds of friendship.

''Lockerbie has been a welcoming place for the relatives of those who died, and over the last 25 years has taken as good care of people as it possibly could.

''I don't think you ever move on, you certainly never forget, but people do rebuild their lives and many have.''

Lord Wallace said: ''There are families who suffered a huge loss at the time, and it changed their lives forever. I don't think we should ever forget what man's inhumanity to man does."

US Consulate General in Edinburgh Zoja Bazarnic, who also attended the wreath laying ceremony, said: ''I think, 25 years on, there were so many lives that were affected by that and it was very important and meaningful for my colleagues and I to be here today to pay our respects to the victims but also to share our thoughts and prayers with the families and the people of Lockerbie."

The evening service at Dryfesdale Church, was conducted by Reverend Sandy Stoddart, and attended by Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Rev Stoddart said: ''Lockerbie towns people were commended at the time for acquitting themselves with tremendous courage, compassion and dignity.

''One grieving relative said Lockerbie received those who died in a loving embrace. The town has continued to do so."

A scholarship scheme set up between Lockerbie Academy and Syracuse University in the US after 35 of the latter's students were killed in the bombing, was also highlighted.

Claire Dorrance, a student who took part in the scheme in 2012/13, gave an address at the service.

She said: ''The 270 people who died are still such a force of good in this world.'

''By living our lives in a way that makes everyday count, we are looking back, and acting forward on their behalf."

Jane Schultz lost her 20-year-old son Thomas who was part of the Syracuse University group on board the flight.

''In my heart, to me this is home and there was no other place I felt I should be on this very sad and special occasion. I wanted to be here to honour my son as well as the 269 other victims and to be in the place where he took his last breath,'' she said.

Meanwhile at Westminster Abbey, Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael and Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined victims' campaigner Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the disaster.

Dr Swire called on people to pray for the family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the attack.

He said: ''When I first met the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi face to face in Greenock prison, though he was a practising Muslim, he had bought me a Christmas card in the prison shop; in it he had written 'Dr Swire and family, please pray for me and my family'.

''He died my friend.

''Over Christmas, if you pray, please pray for his innocent family, but also for all those who wrestle with hatred, that they may be healed by God's love."

The Westminster service also included prayers read by members of UK Families Flight 103, which was set up for the loved ones of the victims to support each other and campaign for an independent inquiry, and by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Lorna Hood.

Scotland Office Minister David Mundell and Scotland's Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland were at Artlington National Cemetery.

The Lord Advocate said: ''On behalf of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, our message is simple: Always remembered, never forgotten; forever in our hearts.''

Silences were held at the services at 7pm to coincide with the moment the bomb exploded.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister David Cameron said: ''To families, friends, neighbours, loved ones and all those caught up in the painful process of recovery, let us say to them: our admiration for you is unconditional; for the fortitude and resilience you have shown; for your determination never to give up. You have shown that terrorist acts cannot crush the human spirit. "

Megrahi was found guilty in January 2001 and given a life sentence. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, leading to a decision to free him under compassionate release rules.

Mr MacAskill took that decision on August 20 the following year, sparking a row among politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.

Megrahi died in Tripoli, Libya in May last year.

Despite the guilty verdict and Megrahi's decision to drop a subsequent appeal against conviction, politicians, campaigners and families of victims are still dealing with the impact, with some of the British relatives considering another appeal against his conviction when they meet with lawyers in the new year.

Megrahi's family have also indicated they plan to appeal the conviction.


From Belfast Telegraph