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FACTDROP: Libyan state TV reports Gaddafi killed after his home town is overrun
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10/20/2011

Libyan state TV reports Gaddafi killed after his home town is overrun

More than a dozen Gaddafi fighters were captured, and rumors swirled that Gaddafi himself was taken or killed during the 90-minute siege.

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

TRIPOLI, Libya — Revolutionary fighters overran the last major stronghold of Moammar Gaddafi’s loyalists on Thursday, and Libyan state television reported that the ousted former Libyan leader was killed.

There was no immediate confirmation of the death from independent sources, andconflicting reports circulated that he had been captured or wounded.

The revolutionaries captured the Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte and effectively brought an end to an eight-month war in which NATO intervened militarily to protect a pro-democracy uprising.

Libyan TV station al-Ahrar reported that Gaddafi was killed in the fighting but did not cite a source. Reuters news agency quoted an unidentified official of the interim national government as also saying the former Libyan leader had been slain.

“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.

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.

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, if confirmed, would 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’re been in political no-man’s-land until Sirte fell.”

A senior official with the Transitional National Council told Reuters that Gaddafi was wounded in both legs and captured while trying to flee Sirte, his birthplace, 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.

Gaddafi was driven from power in Tripoli in August, and his whereabouts had remained a mystery.

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

A spokesman for Libya’s transitional government, Jalal el-Gallal, and its military spokesman Abdul-Rahman Busin also said the reports of Gaddafi’s death have not been confirmed, AP reported.

At approximately 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.”

Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for the Transitional National Council, told the BBC: “We cannot confirm that any Gaddafi officials have been captured.”

He said that on Thursday, “suddenly our people were able to storm Sirte and control it in a few hours.”

Libya’s state television station reported that Gaddafi had been killed, and that his 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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