The Lockerbie bomber has died, nearly three years after he was released from jail on compassionate grounds.

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison for the 1988 bombing of a US airliner over the Scottish town which claimed 270 lives. The former Libyan intelligence officer was later diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and controversially released from prison in August 2009 with an estimated three months to live.

The decision, by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, to free the only man ever convicted of the atrocity provoked an international storm. His death in Tripoli, at the age of 60, was announced by his son, Khaled.

The news divided opinion. The mother of one passenger said she hoped the convicted terrorist suffered a "painful, horrible" death, while a spokesman for some of Megrahi's British victims said his death was "deeply regretted".

The bombing of Pan Am flight 103, travelling from London to New York four days before Christmas, killed all 259 people on board. Eleven residents of the Dumfries and Galloway town also died after the plane crashed down on their homes in Britain's biggest terrorist atrocity.

After protracted international pressure, Megrahi was put on trial in the Netherlands. He was found guilty in 2001 of mass murder and was ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years behind bars.

Despite claims that he could not have worked alone and the lingering suspicion by some that he was innocent, Megrahi was the only man ever brought to justice over the terrorist attack.

Mr MacAskill's subsequent decision to release him from Greenock prison and allow him to return home to die in Libya drew international condemnation. Scottish ministers have always insisted the move was made in good faith, on compassionate grounds alone and followed the due process of Scots law. But many strongly opposed the decision.

US families were among the most vocal critics, along with US president Barack Obama. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton branded the move "absolutely wrong". American fury was compounded by the hero's welcome Megrahi received in Tripoli upon his return.

Susan Cohen, whose daughter Theodora, 20, was on the flight bound for John F Kennedy airport, said she believed Megrahi should have received the death penalty. But David Ben-Ayreah, a spokesman for some of the British families who lost loved ones, described Megrahi as the "271st victim of Lockerbie".