Muammar Gaddafi killed as Sirte falls

Muammar Gaddafi has been killed after National Transitional Council fighters overran loyalist defences in Sirte, the toppled
Libyan leader’s hometown and final stronghold.

But questions remained on Thursday of the circumstances over Gaddafi’s death as footage appeared to show he had been captured alive.

“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Gaddafi has been killed,” Mahmoud Jibril, the de facto Libyan prime minister, told reporters on Thursday in Tripoli, the capital.

Asked what would be done with Gaddafi’s body, he said: “It doesn’t make any difference, as long as he disappears”.

Crowds took to the streets of Sirte, Tripoli and Benghazi, the eastern city that spearheaded the uprising against Gaddafi’s 42-year rule in February, to celebrate the news, with some firing guns and waving Libya’s new flag.

“I’m so proud now,” a Tripoli resident told Al Jazeera.”It’s a new era. Look to our eyes and you’ll see happiness, finally”.

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, an NTC military chief, said Gaddafi had died of his wounds after being captured.

Earlier, Abdel Majid, another NTC official, said the toppled leader had been wounded in both legs.

Son killed

Later on Thursday, the Libyan information minister said Gaddafi’s son Mutassim had been killed after hiding with his father.

“Mutassim is dead. I can confirm it,” Mahmoud Shammam told Reuters.

Earlier reports had suggested that he had been captured alive but injured.

The news came shortly after the NTC captured Sirte after weeks of fierce fighting.

Fighters flashing V for victory took to the streets in pick-ups blaring out patriotic music.

“Thank God they have caught this person. In one hour, Sirte was liberated,” a fighter said.

Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley, reporting from Sirte, said Libyans there celebrating the beginning of a “new Libya”.

“This is bringing a form of closure,” he said. “Gaddafi stayed true to his words, that he would stay in Libya till the end.

“It was surprising to many that he did actually stay here in Sirte – it’s taken such a bombardment in the last 13 days. Nothing could survive in here for very long. I think they were starved of food, starved of ammunition, and finally there was nothing to do but to run”.

Saif al-Islam ‘arrested’

In Tripoli, Jibril said he had received unconfirmed reports that Gaddafi’s most prominent son, Saif al-Islam, was trying to flee from Sirte but had been tracked down by NTC fighters who were attacking his convoy. Later reports suggested that Saif had been injured and arrested.

Footage had emerged earlier in the day of the body of Abu Bakr Younus, Gaddafi’s defence minister.

Abdul Hakim Al Jalil, commander of the NTC’s 11th brigade, said that Moussa Ibrahim, the former spokesman for Gaddafi’s fallen government, had been captured near Sirte.

Ahmed Ibrahim, a cousin of Gaddafi, was also reportedly captured.

Reaction from world leaders was swift, with Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, saying Gaddafi’s death marked “a historic transition for Libya”.

“In the coming days, we will witness scenes of celebration as well as grief for those who lost so much,” Ban said in New York.

“Now is the time for all Libyans to come together. Libyans can only realise the promise of the future for national unity and reconciliation.”

The European Union said the death “marks the end of an era of despotism” and “repression from which the Libyan people have suffered for too long”.

( / 20.10.2011)

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