Image: Abdel Basset al-Megrahi
AP file
This Thursday, March 14, 2002 file photo shows convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi as he listens to the verdict that his appeal of his conviction in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 had been turned down.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/28/2011 5:37:42 PM ET 2011-08-28T21:37:42

The Libyan rebels' interim government says it will not deport the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, who is reportedly near death.

The rebel Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagi told journalists in Tripoli Sunday that no Libyan citizen would be deported, even Abdel-Baset al-Megrahi, who was convicted in a Scottish court and imprisoned for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people.

The Scottish government released al-Megrahi in 2009, believing he would soon die of cancer. He was greeted as a hero in his native Libya and met with then-leader Moammar Gadhafi.

CNN reported Sunday that al-Megrahi is comatose and near death, under the care of his family at a villa in Tripoli.

"We just give him oxygen. Nobody gives us any advice," his son, Khaled Elmegarhi, told CNN.

It's likely that he'll take the secrets of the Pam Am bombing to his grave, according to CNN.

Neighbors of al-Megrahi described him as a wealthy recluse, constantly surrounded by security guards.

After his release, he was received with a hero's welcome on his return to Tripoli, and the televised images of cheering crowds angered many relatives of the 270 people killed in the attack, 189 of whom were Americans.

Story: Hundreds of foreigners leaving Tripoli

The Obama administration harshly criticized Scotland's decision to release Megrahi and many U.S. politicians and victims' families have pressed for his extradition to the United States.

One of Megrahi's neighbors said he had been whisked away by security guards last week when Tripoli fell to rebels battling forces loyal to Gadhafi, who like Megrahi, has gone into hiding. Libya's new government is likely to come under pressure to find Megrahi and hand him over.

"The day Tripoli fell, four security men, his private security, took him, his wife and his sons and left. They left in a Mercedes," said Ahmed Mlaaty, 20, a student and one of Megrahi's neighbours, standing outside his handsome villa.

As a condition of his release, Megrahi had been obliged to check in regularly with Scottish authorities, who said last week they had lost contact with him in the "dust of battle."

Image: House of Abdel-Baset al Megrahi in Tripoli
Francois Mori  /  AP
The house of Lockerbie bomber Abdel-Baset al-Megrahi convicted of murdering 270 people by blowing up a passenger jet is seen in Tripoli, Libya, on  Aug. 27.

Neighbors said Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence operative, owns several properties in the Demeshk area of Tripoli's Hadba district, one of the smartest in the city.

Megrahi's properties appeared empty, with a padlock on the gate of one residence where he was said to receive guests.

Sprays of bougainvillea, tall palm trees and brightly coloured flowers could be seen behind the high walls of the neighbourhood's large villas.

"He kept himself to himself .... He's a millionaire. He gets his money from big daddy (Gadhafi). People keep their distance. They don't want to get into state affairs as it will only bring trouble," Mlaaty said.

Another neighbor who had sat with Megrahi at local functions but had never spoken to him said he appeared a reserved, well-turned-out man.

Most neighbors said Megrahi appeared unwell, but there was controversy over his severity of his condition -- diagnosed by Scottish doctors as terminal prostate cancer -- and whether it warranted his release.

"I saw him many times, he was in a wheelchair, he looked very ill, very thin. He always had security, more than one car. He never went anywhere without them," said senior policeman Ali Ahmed al-Khudair, 40, who said he resented the security patrols that accompanied Megrahi's arrival in the neighbourhood.

"He wasn't a millionaire before, but he is now. He came here after he was released from prison. Then he bought these houses. This is one of Libya's top neighborhoods," he added.

Another neighbor said Megrahi caused no one any harm, and said his complicity in the bombing had not been proved.

"Everyone associates him with Lockerbie, but I'm not sure he was involved," said Noora Abdul Hadi, 27, a doctor.

Attiya al-Usta, 77, said he had seen Megrahi just before the February uprising against Gadhafi's 42-year-rule.

"When he came back from Europe he looked ill. But recently he looked fit and neat. I saw him just before the revolution. He didn't look ill at all. He was sitting in a chair on his balcony. He looked 100 percent."

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Lockerbie bomber in coma, near death

  1. Closed captioning of: Lockerbie bomber in coma, near death

    >> we have news from libya this morning from family of convicted lockerbie bomber tells nbc news he is in a coma and without medicine. nbc's stephanie gosk is there with more. stephanie, good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, natalie. that's right. we spoke with his son. he's concerned his father is in a coma. he told us that looters broke into hisso house and stole his medicine. we were at the house this morning and we didn't see any signs of looters. he was of tnl person convicted of the 1988 bombing of panam flight 183 that killed the passengers and crew over lockerbie, scotland. two years after his release he is still alive. the man who orchestrated one of the worse air attacks in history is living here in this gated upscale community in tripoli. his brother spoke to the press gathered outside the house. the doctors, he says, are not allowing visitors, but cnn managed to capture these images showing someone believed to be looked up to life support . the scottish government released him in 2009 . doctors said he would soon die of cancer. at home in libya he was greeted like a hero and met personally by gadhafi's son. now that the government is topped new york centers asked the national council to return the former intelligence officer to fully account for the attack that killed 189 americans. but with him now possibly on responsive and near death, remaining questions about panam 103 may remain unanswered. the ntc leaders who are not even in tripoli yet said they won't be extraditing him because they believe that's tantamount of a government ears be government's betrayal to one of its citizens.

    >>> wall street is open for business again today. cnbc's mandy

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