LIBYA: Veteran Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was killed on Thursday when new regime forces launched a final assault on the last pocket of resistance in his hometown Sirte, a National Transitional Council spokesman said Thursday.
“We announce to the world that Qaddafi has died in the custody of the revolution,” Abdel Hafez Ghoga said.
“It is an historic moment. It is the end of tyranny and dictatorship. Qaddafi has met his fate,” he added.
He said that the fugitive former despot’s death been “confirmed by our commanders on the ground in Sirte, those who captured him after he had been wounded in the battle for Sirte.”
A video circulating among NTC fighters in Sirte showed mobile phone footage of what appeared to be Qaddafi’s bloodied corpse.
In the grainy images seen by an AFP correspondent, a large number of NTC fighters are seen yelling in chaotic scenes around a khaki-clad body which has blood oozing from the face and neck.
The body is then dragged off by the fighters and loaded in the back of a pick-up truck.
A stills photograph taken on a mobile phone and obtained by AFP showed Qaddafi heavily bloodied but it was not clear from the picture whether he was alive or dead at the time.
In the grainy image, Qaddafi is seen with blood-soaked clothing and blood daubed across his face.
National Transitional Council official Abdel Majid Mlegta told Reuters earlier that Qaddafi was captured and wounded in both legs at dawn on Thursday as he tried to flee in a convoy which NATO warplanes attacked. “He was also hit in his head,” the official said. “There was a lot of firing against his group and he died.” There was no independent confirmation of his remarks.
A pro-Qaddafi television website denied Thursday reports that the strongman had been killed or captured.
“The reports peddled by the lackeys of NATO about the capture or death of the brother leader, Moamer Qaddafi, are baseless,” said Al-Libiya television.
Qaddafi’s final hours
Government fighters, video evidence and the scenes of sheer carnage nearby told the story of the dictator’s final hours.
Shortly before dawn prayers on Thursday, Qaddafi surrounded by a few dozen loyal bodyguards and accompanied by the head of his now non-existent army Abu Bakr Younis Jabr broke out of the two-month siege of Sirte and made a break for the west.
But they did not get far.
NATO said its aircraft struck military vehicles belonging to pro-Qaddafi forces near Sirte at about 8:30 am (0630 GMT) on Thursday, but the alliance said it was unsure whether the strikes had killed Qaddafi.
Fifteen pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns lay burnt out, smashed and smouldering next to an electricity substation some 20 metres from the main road, about two miles west of Sirte.
They had clearly been hit by a force far beyond anything the motley army the former rebels have assembled during eight months of revolt to overthrow the once feared leader.
But there was no bomb crater, indicating the strike may have been carried out by a helicopter gunship, or had been strafed by a fighter jet.
Inside the trucks still in their seats sat the charred skeletal remains of drivers and passengers killed instantly by the strike. Other bodies lay mutilated and contorted strewn in the grass. Some 50 bodies in all.
Qaddafi himself and a handful of his men escaped death and appeared to have ran through a stand of trees towards the main road and hid in the two drainage pipes.
But a group of government fighters were on their tail.
“At first we fired at them with anti-aircraft guns, but it was no use,” said Salem Bakeer, while being feted by his comrades near the road. “Then we went in on foot.
“One of Qaddafi’s men came out waving his rifle in the air and shouting surrender, but as soon as he saw my face he started shooting at me,” he told Reuters.
“Then I think Qaddafi must have told them to stop. ‘My master is here, my master is here’, he said, ‘Moamer Qaddafi is here and he is wounded’,” said Bakeer.
“We went in and brought Qaddafi out. He was saying ‘what’s wrong? What’s wrong? What’s going on?’. Then we took him and put him in the car,” Bakeer said.
At the time of capture, Qaddafi was already wounded with gunshots to his leg and to his back, Bakeer said.
Other government fighters who said they took part in Qaddafi’s capture, separately confirmed Bakeer’s version of events, though one said the man who ruled Libya for 42 years was shot and wounded at the last minute by one of his own men.
“One of Moamer Qaddafi’s guards shot him in the chest,” said Omran Jouma Shawan.
Army chief Jabr was also captured alive, Bakeer said. NTC officials later announced he was dead.
Fallen electricity cables partially covered the entrance to the pipes and the bodies of three men, apparently Qaddafi bodyguards lay at the entrance to one end, one in shorts probably due to a bandaged wound on his leg.
Four more bodies lay at the other end of the pipes. All black men, one had his brains blown out, another man had been decapitated, his dreadlocked head lying beside his torso.
Joyous government fighters fired their weapons in the air, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and posed for pictures. Others wrote graffiti on the concrete parapets of the highway.
“Qaddafi was captured here,” said one simply.
From there Qaddafi was taken to the nearby city of Sirte where he and his dwindling band of die-hard supporters had made a last stand under a rain of missile and artillery fire in a desperate two-month siege.
Video footage showed Qaddafi, dazed and wounded, but still clearly alive and gesturing with his hands as he was dragged from a pick-up truck by a crowd of angry jostling group of government soldiers who hit him and pulled his hair.
He then appeared to fall to the ground and was enveloped by the crowd. NTC officials later announced Qaddafi had died of his wounds after capture.
NTC to announce liberation of Libya by Friday
Libya’s interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil is to declare by Friday that the country has been liberated and give details on Qaddafi’s killing, interim premier Mahmud Jibril told reporters.
“Abdel Jalil will come out today or at the latest tomorrow to declare the liberation of the country and to give details about the killing of Qaddafi,” said the number two in the National Transitional Council.
“With the confirmation that all the evil people, including Qaddafi, have vanished from this beloved country … it is time for Libyans to start a new country, a united Libya, one people with one future.”
Qaddafi’s son Mutassim found dead in Sirte: NTC commander
Mutassim Qaddafi, one of the ousted Libyan strongman’s sons, was found dead in Sirte, a commander of the new regime forces told AFP.
“We found him dead. We put his body and that of (former defence minister) Abu Bakr Yunis in an ambulance to take them to Misrata,” said Mohamed Leith.
Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam is believed to be still at large in Libya’s desert, a member of the National Transitional Council has said.
Abdelmajid Saif al-Nasr told the Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite channel that Saif al-Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, was last known to have been in the area of Bani Walid and was believed to be “in the desert” around the town.
“But he will be captured soon,” said Saif al-Nasr.
Obama hails Qaddafi’s demise, warns Arab world
US President Barack Obama said the death of Qaddafi ended a long, painful chapter for Libyans and warned ‘iron fist” regimes in the rest of the Arab world they would inevitably fall.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said Qaddafi’s demise vindicated the collective military action of the West and said Libyans now had a chance to build a “democratic” and “tolerant nation.
US confident that Qaddafi is dead: White House official
The United States has “confidence” in reporting through diplomatic channels that deposed Libyan leader Moamer Qaddafi is dead, a senior White House official said.
President Barack Obama, who was to make a statement, “will cite the fact that Libyan officials have announced Gaddafi’s death. We have also received similar reports through diplomatic channels and have confidence in this reporting,” official said.
British PM says ‘day to remember Qaddafi’s victims’
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the death of Moamer Qaddafi was an occasion to remember his victims, while hailing it as a chance for a “democratic future” for Libya.
“I think today is a day to remember all of Colonel Qaddafi’s victims” including those who died in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, Cameron said in a statement outside 10 Downing Street.
Qaddafi’s death marks ‘end of an era of despotism’: EU
The death of Qaddafi “marks the end of an era of despotism,” European Union president Herman Van Rompuy has said.
The news that Qaddafi died in a raid in Sirte means an end also to the “repression from which the Libyan people have suffered for too long,” Van Rompuy said in a joint statement with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.
Qaddafi death ‘historic transition’ for Libya: UN chief
UN leader Ban Ki-moon said the reported death of Qaddafi marked an “historic transition” for Libya.
“The road ahead for Libya and its people will be difficult and full of challenges. Now is the time for all Libyans to come together,” Ban said at the UN headquarters. “Combatants on all sides must lay down their arms and come together in peace. This is a time for rebuilding and healing.”
IMF to send mission to Libya
The International Monetary Fund will send a mission to Libya soon to assess the country’s economy, an IMF spokesman said after rebel forces killed Libyan strongman Qaddafi.
The IMF is planning to send the mission “in the coming weeks,” following up on an October 6-13 fact-finding mission it undertook in cooperation with the World Bank, spokesman Gerry Rice said at a regular news briefing.
Libya now ‘liberated’: McCain
Senior US Senator John McCain said that the death of Qaddafi marked the end of “the first phase” of Libya’s revolution and called for closer ties between Washington and Tripoli.
“The death of Moamer Qaddafi 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.
Qaddafi captured as he fled Sirte: NTC official
Deposed Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi was captured and wounded near his hometown of Sirte at dawn on Thursday as he tried to flee in a convoy which NATO warplanes attacked, National Transitional Council official Abdel Majid said on Thursday.
The senior NTC military official told Reuters by telephone that the head of Qaddafi’s armed forces Abu Bakr Younus Jabr had been killed during the capture of the Libyan ex-leader.
“He has been captured. He is badly wounded, but he is still breathing,” a National Transitional Council commander Mohamed Leith told AFP, adding that he had seen Qaddafi himself and that he was wearing a kaki uniform and a turban.
Libyan TV channel “Libya lil Ahrar” also said that he was in custody. In Sirte, medics said the defence minister in Kadhafi’s ousted regime, Abu Bakr Yunis, had been killed in the final battle for the strongman’s hometown.
His body was identified at the field hospital where it was brought in a pick-up truck on Thursday, Dr Abdul Rauf told AFP.