By Tom Brune
The killing of Moammar Gadhafi raises hopes for greater stability in the Middle East and should provide some relief for U.S. families who lost relatives to his terrorist attacks, New York lawmakers said Thursday.
"The world is a better and safer place without him," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said about the Libyan dictator who ruthlessly ruled his own country for four decades and sponsored worldwide terrorism.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, reacted with cautious optimism.
"It has the potential to be a very significant victory for the United States," he said. "Gadhafi obviously was a mass murderer and a reckless dictator. With him gone, it certainly gives an opportunity to stabilize the Middle East."
But King cautioned, "The challenge right now is to make sure that radical Islamists don't hijack the movement" and transitional government that led to Gadhafi's ouster.
"We also have to do all we can to secure all the weapons of mass destruction that Gadhafi had and the surface-to-air missiles," King said.
Many New Yorkers reviled Gadhafi, who was implicated in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 as it flew over Lockerbie, Scotland, from London to Kennedy Airport, killing 270 people.
"New Yorkers know better than almost anyone else how evil a man Moammar Gadhafi was," Schumer said. "Hopefully, his death will bring some degree of closure to the many families who lost loved ones on Flight 103."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who also hailed Gadhafi's death, called again for the return to prison of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, convicted in 2001 of the Flight 103 bombing but released in 2009 to Libya by the Scottish government because he said he was near death.
"As the new Libyan government moves forward on the path toward democracy, they must hold all those responsible for terrorist acts under Gadhafi's brutal reign accountable," Gillibrand said.
"The Transitional National Council must get all the information we can learn about the Lockerbie bombing and put al-Megrahi back in prison where he belongs," she said.