Gadhafi Killed in Sirte, Libyans Eye Future

Posted October 20th, 2011 at 10:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was shot and killed Thursday as provisional government forces stormed his final stronghold in his hometown of Sirte, sparking nationwide celebrations.

After his death, a brigade of fighters from Misrata seized Gadhafi's bloodied body and brought it to their city in an ambulance. Medical officials arrived later, presumably to conduct an autopsy. A secret burial is scheduled for Friday.

NTC officials said the interim government will formally announce Libya's liberation from Gadhafi's rule Saturday, setting the clock ticking on a timeline for elections.

Conflicting accounts emerged about how Gadhafi died.

Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, citing a forensic report, said the ousted leader was pulled from a hiding place in a sewage pipe on the outskirts of Sirte and later mortally wounded in crossfire between pro- and anti-Gadhafi fighters. Other officials said he was beaten and then killed.

Cellphone video from the scene broadcast worldwide showed National Transitional Council soldiers carrying a wounded and bleeding Gadhafi shortly before he died. Later images showed him apparently dead.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said a French warplane participating in the NATO mission had attacked a Gadhafi convoy Thursday as the former leader and his remaining loyalists tried to escape from Sirte. U.S. defense officials said a U.S. Predator drone had also struck the convoy.

NATO members will meet Friday in Brussels to discuss ending their six-month Libyan air campaign, which began as a move to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by loyalist fighters.

The 69-year-old autocratic leader had ruled Libya for more than four decades until a rebellion that began in February in the eastern city of Benghazi advanced across the country, ousting him from the capital, Tripoli, in August.

Mr. Jibril said Thursday that now is the time for all Libyans to build a new, united country.

Jubilant crowds filled the streets of Tripoli, Misrata, Benghazi and other cities to celebrate Mr. Gadhafi's demise and the fall of Sirte. Many people waved Libya's new national flag and fired guns into the air.

Libyan officials said one of Gadhafi's sons, Mutassim, also was killed in Sirte on Thursday as was longtime defense chief Abu Baker Younis. Another Gadhafi son, Seif al-Islam, was variously reported to be surrounded, captured or killed in a village near Sirte as conflicting accounts of the day's events circulated.

Provisional government forces besieged Sirte for weeks, but had met fierce resistance from heavily armed Gadhafi loyalists.