Libya's Qaddafi Reported Killed As NTC Forces Take Full Control Of Sirte
Libya's leaders are hailing a new chapter for the country after the death of ousted strongman Muammar Qaddafi.
Mahmud Jibril, the prime minister of Libya's transitional government, has confirmed that Qaddafi was killed in his last stronghold of Sirte.
In the eastern city of Benghazi, National Transitional Council (NTC) spokesman Abdel Gogha told a news conference, "We announce to the world that Muammar Qaddafi has been killed at the hands of the revolutionaries and Qaddafi's tyranny and dictatorship have finally ended and this chapter is closed for Libya and for all the world."
Television pictures showed residents of Sirte celebrating on the streets following the reports of Qaddafi's death and the fall of the coastal city to forces loyal to the country's new leaders.
Jubilant residents also poured onto the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli, waving flags and honking horns.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera, one resident of the capital said, "I feel like a Libyan reborn. I’ve been praying to God to see the devil dead and now the devil is dead."
Details of Qaddafi’s last stand have begun to emerge.
NATO said its warplanes fired on a convoy near Sirte at about 8:30 a.m. local time, striking two military vehicles in the group. The bloc did not immediately confirm that Qaddafi had been a passenger.
However, French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet later told French television that as part of the NATO strikes, his country’s warplanes had stopped a convoy attempting to transport Qaddafi.
He was apparently captured alive by rebel fighters, as Arab television channels broadcast footage of an injured and bloodied individual believed to Qaddafi, surrounded by gun-wielding men.
A rebel fighter who spoke to Reuters said the former strongman had been found hiding in a hole in the ground.
Broadcaster Al-Jazeera has also aired video footage showing a crowd dragging the dead body purportedly of Qaddafi.
The NTC says the body was transferred to a mosque in the city of Misurata, between Tripoli and Sirte.
Reports also say Qaddafi loyalists, as well as ammunition and trucks loaded with weapons, were captured in the rebels’ assault.
A number of Qaddafi aides, including his son and former national security adviser, Mutassim, were also killed.
Another Qaddafi son, one-time heir apparent Seif al-Islam, was reportedly captured wounded by rebel fighters. There are conflicting reports as to whether he has died.
The NTC has said that the fall of Sirte would be the point at which it would declare Libya liberated, triggering the formation of a new government within a month.
The rebels had first ousted the 69-year-old Qaddafi, who had ruled Libya for 42 years, in August, when they captured Tripoli.
His whereabouts had remained unknown, while several of his family members were in hiding or had fled the country.
Speaking to Western media in February, Qaddafi called rebels seeking to overturn his regime international terrorists, while maintaining that the majority of Libyans would support him.
"They love me. All my people [are] with me. They love me all," he said. "They will die to protect me, my people."
However Western leaders welcomed his death as the end of despotism, tyranny, dictatorship, and ultimately war in the North African country.
U.S. President Barack Obama claimed that Qaddafi's death "marks the end of a long, and painful chapter" for Libyans.
"This is a momentous day in the history of Libya," he said. "The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted. And with this enormous promise, the Libyan people now have a great responsibility to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Qaddafi's dictatorship."
Obama also said Qaddafi's fate should serve as a message to other embattled rulers in the Arab world that "the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the development "marks a historic transition for Libya," adding, "let us recognize immediately that this is only the end of the beginning."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said, "we should remember the many Libyans who died at the hands of this brutal dictator" and that the people of Libya now had a greater chance of building a democratic future.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed Qaddafi's death as a "major step for Libya."
In a joint statement, European Union President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Qaddafi's death would allow Libya to "embrace a new democratic future."
EU spokesman Michael Mann told RFE/RL: "Colonel Qaddafi's death brings closure to a tragic period in the lives of so many Libyan people. Libya is entering a process of transition. It's important now that the leadership unites to provide a democratic future for the country in full respect for human rights. While of course the crimes of the past must be addressed, the leadership must also seek a path of reconciliation."
In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said, "Now the war is over."
And senior U.S. Senator John McCain said the Libyan people could now focus on "strengthening their national unity, rebuilding their country and economy, proceeding with their democratic transition, and safeguarding the dignity and human rights of all Libyans."
Reports said Ahmed Ibrahim, reportedly one of the key commanders who led fighting against the anti-Qaddafi forces in Sirte, was also arrested in Sirte, while Moussa Ibrahim, former spokesman for Qaddafi's fallen government, was captured near the city.
And the defense minister in Qaddafi's ousted regime, Abu Bakr Yunis, was reportedly killed in the final battle for Sirte.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that the military alliance would soon end its mission in Libya now that Qaddafi's "rule of fear has finally come to an end."
compiled from agency reports
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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