Nine months after Libya’s rebellion began, Muammar Qaddafi was captured, wounded, and then died from his injuries as he tried to flee his hometown of Sirte today, an official from the country’s National Transitional Council told Reuters.
The former Libyan dictator was in a convoy that was attacked by NATO warplanes, and suffered wounds to the head and both legs, according to National Transitional Council official Abdel Majid Mlegta.
“He (Gaddafi) was also hit in his head,” Abdel Majid Mlegta told Reuters. “There was a lot of firing against his group and he died.” In addition to Qaddafi, the strike took the life of Abu Bakr Younus Jabr, the head of the ex-leader’s armed forces.
Mlegta told Reuters earlier that Gaddafi, who was in his late 60s, was captured and wounded in both legs at dawn on Thursday as he tried to flee in a convoy which NATO warplanes attacked. He said he had been taken away by an ambulance.
An anti-Gaddafi fighter said Gaddafi had been found hiding in a hole in the ground and had said “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot” to the men who grabbed him. His capture followed within minutes of the fall of Sirte, a development that extinguished the last significant resistance by forces loyal to the deposed leader.
The airstrike took place as Sirte, the last Qaddafi stronghold, finally crumbled after weeks of fighting. Reuters reported that chants of “God is Great, God is Great, Gaddafi has been captured” filled Tripoli.
Gaddafi’s killing is the most dramatic single development in the Arab Spring revolts that have unseated rulers in Egypt and Tunisia and threatened the grip on power of the leaders of Syria and Yemen.
The capture of Sirte and the death of Gaddafi means Libya’s ruling NTC should now begin the task of forging a new democratic system which it had said it would get under way after the city, built as a showpiece for Gaddafi’s rule, had fallen.
Gaddafi, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of ordering the killing of civilians, was toppled by rebel forces on August 23 after 42 years of one-man rule over the oil-producing North African state.
NTC fighters hoisted the red, black and green national flag above a large utilities building in the center of a newly-captured Sirte neighborhood and celebratory gunfire broke out among their ecstatic and relieved comrades.
Hundreds of NTC troops had surrounded the Mediterranean coastal town for weeks in a chaotic struggle that killed and wounded scores of the besieging forces and an unknown number of defenders.
Senior US Senator John McCain has said that the death of Gaddafi marks the end of “the first phase” of Libya’s revolution and called for closer ties between Washington and Tripoli.
“The death of Moamer Kadhafi marks an end to the first phase of the Libyan revolution. While some final fighting continues, the Libyan people have liberated their country,” the Republican lawmaker said in a statement.
Revolutionary forces in Sirte and across the country can be seen chanting: “We did it! We did it!” as they become overcome with emotion, exchanging well-wishes, hugs and handshakes against a backdrop of intense celebratory gunfire.