Muammar Qaddafi was killed by Libyans he once scorned as “rats”, succumbing to wounds, some seemingly inflicted after his capture by fighters who overran his last redoubt on Thursday in his hometown of Sirte.
Two months after National Transitional Council fighters ended 42 years of eccentric, often bloody, one-man rule by capturing the capital Tripoli, his death and the fall of the final bastion ended a nervous hiatus for the new interim government, which is now set to declare formal “liberation” with a timetable for elections.
The killing or capture of senior aides, as well as possibly two sons including Mohatassim, may ease fears of diehards regrouping elsewhere — though cellphone video apparently of Qaddafi alive and being beaten may inflame his sympathisers.
A Libyan official said Qaddafi, 69, was killed in custody. “We confirm that all the evils, plus Qaddafi, have vanished from this beloved country,” interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said in Tripoli as the body was delivered to Misrata.
“It’s time to start a new Libya, a united Libya,” Jibril added. “One people, one future.” A formal declaration of liberation would be made by Friday, he said. In Benghazi, thousands took to the streets and danced under the old tricolour flag revived by Qaddafi’s opponents.
Shot in the head
A spokesman for the National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi, Jalal al Galal, said a doctor who examined the fallen strongman in Misrata found he had been shot in the head and abdomen. Jerky video shown on Al Jazeera showed a man looking like Qaddafi, with distinctive long, curly hair, bloodied and staggering under blows from armed men, apparently NTC fighters.
“They captured him alive and while he was being taken away, they beat him and then they killed him,” one senior source in the NTC told Reuters. Driven in an ambulance from Sirte, his partially stripped body was delivered to a mosque in Misrata. Senior NTC official Abdel Majid Mlegta told Reuters that DNA tests were being conducted to confirm it was Qaddafi. He would be buried in Misrata, most likely by Friday.
An announcement of final liberation was expected as the chairman of the NTC prepared to address the nation of six million. They now face the challenge of turning oil wealth to heal an array of tribal, ethnic and regional divisions.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the turn of events that few had expected so soon. But he also alluded to fears that 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,” he said.
US President Barack Obama hailed Qaddafi’s death as a warning to authoritarian leaders across the Middle East that iron-fisted rule “inevitably comes to an end” and as vindication for his cautious US strategy on Libya. “This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny,” Obama told reporters.
UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon and other world leaders say they will work with Libyans as they try to move forward and build a democracy after Qaddafi’s death. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi uttered a Latin phrase to say that everything was transitory. “So the glory of this world passes away,” said Berlusconi.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2011.