NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 3/1/2011 3:57:19 PM ET 2011-03-01T20:57:19

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that the Obama administration may seek the prosecution of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Responding to a question by Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., about what the U.S. is doing to build a case against Gadhafi, Clinton said that former Gadhafi officials have made statements in the past few days that he was behind the terrorist attack and that the U.S. would "move expeditiously."

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Clinton's response came more than three and a half hours into a budget hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Clinton said that she would be in touch with FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday about how to move on this case.

A bomb brought down a Boeing 747 flying from London to New York on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground in the town of Lockerbie, Scotland.

The U.S. has considered Pan Am 103 a closed case since a former Libyan intelligence officer was convicted of the bombing and Libya had paid compensation to families of the victims.

If there is evidence that he was behind the attack, Clinton said, that would be one of the many counts against Gadhafi in the international criminal court "if he is ever captured alive for justice proceedings."

Clinton said it was a matter of personal importance for her given that she used to represent the Syracuse area. Thirty-five students from Syracuse University were aboard the flight, coming home from overseas study.

Over the weekend, the former Libyan justice minister was quoted as saying the man convicted of the bombing had blackmailed Gadhafi into securing his release by threatening to expose his role in the attack.

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The Sunday Times newspaper quoted Mustafa Abdel-Jalil as saying that Abdel Baset al-Megrahi had warned Gadhafi that he would "reveal everything" about the bombing if he wasn't rescued from a Scottish prison.

Abdel-Jalil told a Swedish tabloid last week that he had proof Gadhafi had personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing. He did not describe the proof.

Al-Megrahi was the only man convicted for the attack, which killed 270 people. He was released in 2009 on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He remains alive.

This article contains reporting from NBC News' Courtney Kube, msnbc.com staff and The Associated Press.

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