Arab broadcasters showed graphic images of the balding, goateed Gaddafi – wounded, with a bloodied face and shirt – but alive. Later video showed fighters rolling Gaddafi’s lifeless body over on the pavement, stripped to the waist and a pool of blood under his head.
His body, bloodied, half naked, Gaddafi’s trademark long curls hanging limp around a rarely seen bald spot, was delivered, a prize of war, to Misrata, the city west of Sirte whose siege and months of suffering at the hands of Gaddafi’s artillery and snipers made it a symbol of the rebel cause.
His final refuge could not have been more different from the palaces and villas where he had squandered his nation’s oil wealth. The concrete drain pipe was 70ft long and no more than 3ft across, running under a dual carriageway on the outskirts of Sirte.
The circumstances of the death of Gaddafi, who had vowed to go down fighting, remained obscure. Jerky video showed a man with Gaddafi’s distinctive long, curly hair, bloodied and staggering under blows from armed men, apparently NTC fighters.
“When we had him and we surrounded him he was talking like an idiot,”said 20-year-old Mohammad Elhweje, who was one of ten fighters from Misurata who captured him. “He was saying, ‘What’s going on, what did I do?’ No one could believe it.”
The brief footage showed him being hauled by his hair from the hood of a truck. To the shouts of someone saying “Keep him alive,” he disappears from view and gunshots ring out.
“While he was being taken away, they beat him and then they killed him,” a senior source in the NTC told Reuters before Jibril spoke of crossfire. “He might have been resisting.”
Between 17 and 20 of Gaddafi’s most senior supporters were killed or captured alongside him. The leader of his armed forces, Abu Bakr Younus, and Gaddafi’s son Mutassim were killed, while Ahmed Ibrahim, a cousin and adviser, and Moussa Ibrahim, his official spokesman, were captured.
Saif al-Islam, the son Gaddafi wanted to succeed him, was also captured, after his convoy was reportedly hit by a strike from an RAF jet near Sirte as he made his own bid for freedom. In one blow, Gaddafi and his entire inner circle had been wiped out.
Mahmoud Jibril, the prime minister of the interim National Transitional Council, said: “We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Gaddafi has been killed.
“All the evils have vanished from this beloved country. It’s time to start a newLibya, a unitedLibya, one people, one future.”
A formal announcement ofLibya’s liberation, which will set the clock ticking on a timeline to elections, would be made on Saturday, Libyan officials said.
In the United States, President Obama addressed the death of Gaddafi in a press conference. “The Transitional National Council informed the United States of Gaddafi’s death shortly before Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril’s announcement to his nation that the moment so many had waited for had come, a U.S. official said.
The White House and State Department were expected to release official responses later Thursday,” Obama said, according to the Associated Press. “You have won your revolution,” he continued, “One of the world’s longest-serving dictators is no more.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who spearheaded a Franco-British move in NATO to back the revolt against Gaddafi, alluded to fears that, without the glue of hatred for Gaddafi, the new Libya could descend, like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, into bloody factionalism.
“The liberation of Sirte must signal … the start of a process … to establish a democratic system in which all groups in the country have their place and where fundamental freedoms are guaranteed,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to Afghanistan, received first news of Gaddafi’s capture in a phone message.
“Wow,”Clintonexclaimed, looking into a smart phone handed to her by an aide inKabul. “Unconfirmed,” she said, explaining to those around her. “Unconfirmed reports about Gaddafi being captured.”
Speaking inIslamabadon Friday,Clintonsaid Gaddafi’s death marked the start of a “new era” for the Libyan people.
David Cameron said he was proud ofBritain’s part in liberating the country and that it was a time to remember all Gaddafi’s victims in Libya and inBritain, through the Lockerbie bombing, the shooting of WPc Yvonne Fletcher and the victims of Libyan-aided IRA terrorism. [via Huff Post, Reuters and The Telegraph]