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FACTDROP: Libyan prime minister confirms Gaddafi killed as Sirte is overrun
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10/20/2011

Libyan prime minister confirms Gaddafi killed as Sirte is overrun



Πηγή: The Washington Post
By Mary Beth Sheridan and Michael Birnbaum
Oct 20 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril confirmed Thursday that ousted leader Moammar Gaddafi was killed when revolutionary fighters overran his last major stronghold.

Earlier, conflicting reports had circulated that Gaddafi, 69, had been captured or wounded.

After about 90 minutes of fighting early Thursday, revolutionaries overran the last pro-Gaddafi holdouts in the Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte and effectively brought an end to an eight-month war in whichNATO intervened militarily to protect a pro-democracy uprising.

Abdelhakim Belhadj, the military chief of the governing Transitional National Council, told the al-Jazeera satellite network that Gaddafi had been killed.

Libyan TV station al-Ahrar also reported that Gaddafi was killed in the fighting but did not cite a source.

However, other officials initially said Gaddafi was seized by revolutionary fighters. News agencies distributed acellphone photo purporting to show a bloodied Gaddafi in the custody of fighters, but it was not clear from the image whether he was alive or dead.

“He’s captured. We don’t know if he’s dead or not,” Ibrahim Mohammed Shirkasiya, a senior security official in Misurata, the biggest city west of Sirte, said by telephone. He said his information came from revolutionary commanders in Sirte.

Al-Jazeera later showed footage of a bloodied and apparently lifeless man who resembled Gaddafi. The network said it obtained cellphone footage from a former rebel fighter who was present. The man’s face had a goatee, as Gaddafi had favored, and blood was visible around his mouth and nose, with a trickle coming from his right ear. His left arm was still in a brown shirt, which had been unbuttoned and mostly stripped off. A crowd of people surrounded the body, chanting anti-Gaddafi slogans.

Celebrations erupted in Sirte and in other parts of the country as word spread of the fall of the city and the possible capture or slaying of Gaddafi.

The final battle for Sirte began at about 8 a.m. local time and ended about an hour and a half later, the Associated Press reported. Gaddafi’s last holdouts were squeezed into a residential area of about 700 square yards as they came under fire from surrounding buildings.

Just before the final battle, about five carloads of Gaddafi loyalists tried to flee the enclave but came under fire from revolutionaries, who killed about 20 of them, AP reported.

Afterward, the revolutionary fighters captured at least 16 loyalists, along with cases of ammunitions and truckloads of weapons, as they searched homes and buildings for pro-Gaddafi fighters. Revolutionaries beat captured loyalists in the backs of trucks as officers tried to stop them, AP said.

One revolutionary climbed up a traffic light pole, kissed a flag of the new new government and unfurled it. The streets were littered with military uniforms discarded by the loyalist remnants.

In Tripoli, hundreds of cars honked their horns, and the air was filled with celebratory gunfire from automatic rifles and heavy weapons.

Afterward, the revolutionary fighters captured at least 16 loyalists, along with cases of ammunitions and truckloads of weapons, as they searched homes and buildings for pro-Gaddafi fighters. Revolutionaries beat captured loyalists in the backs of trucks as officers tried to stop them, AP said.

One revolutionary climbed up a traffic light pole, kissed a flag of the new new government and unfurled it. The streets were littered with military uniforms discarded by the loyalist remnants.

In Tripoli, hundreds of cars honked their horns, and the air was filled with celebratory gunfire from automatic rifles and heavy weapons.

Gaddafi’s death serves to ease fears that he could still rally his forces to launch a stealth guerrilla campaign against the revolutionary government. Gaddafi ruled with an iron fist for 42 years, brooking no opposition and establishing a cult of personality.

Sirte was a key prize because it was the last holdout of the Gaddafi forces and sits astride a key coastal highway about midway between Tripoli and Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi, the rebels’ former de facto capital. In addition, the interim government had held off on declaring the war over until the city fell.

“This is the watershed moment,” said political analyst Peter Cole, in Tripoli. “It’s a significant moment. We’ve been in political no-man’s-land until Sirte fell.”

A senior official with the Transitional National Council initially told Reuters that Gaddafi was wounded in both legs and captured while trying to flee Sirte in a convoy that was struck by NATO warplanes.

The Misurata Military Council, one of multiple command groups for revolutionary forces, says its fighters captured Gaddafi in Sirte, the Associated Press reported. Another commander, Abdel-Basit Haroun, said Gaddafi was killed when an airstrike hit his convoy.

U.S. and NATO officials said Thursday morning that they could not ascertain the ousted leader’s fate or determine whether he was in the convoy that was struck.

At about 8:30 a.m. local time Thursday, “NATO aircraft struck two pro-Gaddafi forces military vehicles which were part of a larger group maneuvering in the vicinity of Sirte,” NATO said in a statement. “These armed vehicles were conducting military operations and presented a clear threat to civilians.”

“We’ve had no confirmation whether Gaddafi was in there or not,” said a NATO official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Over the past couple weeks in Sirte, the official said, “there was a sense that given the fight they were putting up, which was concerted, that they were protecting something important.”

On Thursday, the official said, “we saw a convoy coming out. It was tracked by NATO. There was a limited amount of engagement.” The official said that forces under control of the Libyan Transitional National Council had also surrounded the area and were engaged in heavy exchanges of gunfire with the convoy.

“We’ve seen nothing coming out of that particular pocket” of Sirte “until today, so it was unusual,” the official said. The official described what had come under attack as not a single convoy, but “a number of different packets of vehicles attempting to break through.”

Libya’s state television station reported that Gaddafi’s son Mutassim and top intelligence aide Abdullah Senoussi had been captured and brought to Misurata. A news anchor wrapped in a tricolor Libyan flag delivered the news.

NATO’s military activity had tapered to nearly nothing in recent weeks, as tight urban combat in Sirte was not appropriate for alliance airstrikes. Instead, tough street fighting had some Libyans worried about the beginnings of an insurgency.



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