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Senior Libyan Officials Say Gadhafi Killed in Sirte

October 20, 2011

Elizabeth Arrott | Cairo

Celebrations are underway across Libya, where officials of the interim government say the country's former leader Moammar Gadhafi has been killed.

The news came as fighters loyal to the National Transitional Council took control of Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, the last major stronghold of the old government.

The reports from Libyan provisional government officials that Moammar Gadhafi had been killed during a battle for control of Sirte prompted celebrations in other towns and cities across the North African country where Gadhafi ruled for four decades.

The end of Gadhafi's two months on the run mark a turning point in the NTC's efforts to consolidate its control of the country.

The reports about Gadhafi came shortly after NTC fighters raised the new Libyan flag in the center of Sirte Thursday morning. Celebratory gunfire and car horns replaced the sniper fire and heavy weaponry that had sounded through the city for weeks, noise that only grew louder as word of Gadhafi's fate spread.

The capture of Sirte comes near two months after forces loyal to the NTC took control of the capital Tripoli, forcing Gadhafi and his family to flee.

His whereabouts since had been the source of intense speculation, with the possibilities including underground bunkers or refuge in another country.

The declaration of victory in Sirte is expected to set in motion a series of political moves leading to elections, a new government and a new constitution - a massive undertaking in a country that has had 40 years of arbitrary, one-man rule.

The capture of Sirte follows NTC success in another pro-Gadhafi bastion, Bani Walid, earlier this week. Fighting still continues in southern areas of the country, the vast desert regions bordering Niger, Algeria and Chad. But control of Gadhafi's hometown provides a geographic as well as symbolic victory, uniting the main population corridor along the coast from east to west.

Gadhafi forces are in a struggle for survival says Libya scholar Ziad Akl from the Ahram Center in Cairo.

"The forces that are pro-Gadhafi, first of all, they are not politically organized, they are not strategically outlined, and they are not fighting actually to gain ground," said Akl. "They are simply trying to defend the positions they have and stop the revolution from moving on and this is a time- constrained battle."

A major portion of that battle ended Thursday.

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