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Victims of plane bombing honored

US, Britain mark 25th anniversary

Relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie air disaster paid their respects Saturday during a 25th anniversary memorial service at Dryfesdale cemetery in Lockerbie, Scotland.  Eleven people on the ground died when Pan Am 103 exploded over the town.

IAN FORSYTH/GETTY IMAGES

Relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie air disaster paid their respects Saturday during a 25th anniversary memorial service at Dryfesdale cemetery in Lockerbie, Scotland. Eleven people on the ground died when Pan Am 103 exploded over the town.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Families of some of the 270 people who died in an airliner bombing 25 years ago gathered for memorial services Saturday in the United States and Britain, honoring victims of a terror attack that killed dozens of American college students and created instant havoc in the Scottish town where wreckage of the plane rained down.

Bagpipes played and wreaths were laid in the Scottish town of Lockerbie and mourners gathered for a moment of silence at London’s Westminster Abbey, while Attorney General Eric Holder told victims’ relatives at Arlington National Cemetery that they should take comfort in their unity even if time cannot erase their pain.

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‘‘We keep calling for change, and fighting for justice, on behalf of those no longer with us. We rededicate ourselves — and our nation — to the qualities that defined the men and women we lost,’’ Holder said.

The events marked the 25th anniversary of the explosion of Pan Am 103, a New York-bound flight that exploded over Lockerbie less than an hour after takeoff from London on Dec. 21, 1988. Many of the victims were American college students flying home for Christmas, including 35 Syracuse University students participating in a study abroad program. The attack, caused by a bomb packed into a suitcase, killed all 259 people aboard the plane, and 11 others on the ground.

The Arlington ceremony took place beside a cairn of 270 blocks of red Scottish sandstone, the nation’s official memorial to the attack. Wreaths flanked the structure, taps was played, and victims’ relatives recited the names of the people killed.

Whitney Davis lost her sister Shannon, a Syracuse student, and other friends in the explosion. She said she learned of the bombing after returning home from Syracuse, which she also attended.

‘‘I was angry. I was in disbelief. Mom was in shock, my brother was not saying much and I just was throwing snowballs at the sky and wondering how this could have happened,’’ said Davis, of Bend, Ore., who brought her daughter to the memorial in Virginia.

One man — former Libyan intelligence official Abdel Baset al-Megrahi — was convicted of the bombing, and a second Libyan suspect was acquitted of all charges. Megrahi was given a life sentence, but Scottish authorities released him on humanitarian grounds in 2009 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He died in Tripoli last year.

Many questions remain unanswered about the attack, but the governments of Britain, the United States. and Libya on Saturday issued a joint statement saying they will cooperate to reveal ‘‘the full facts’’ of the case.

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