Gaddafi burial delayed as NTC insists he died in ‘crossfire’
Published 21/10/2011 | 07:54
THE burial of tyrant Muammar Gaddafi has been delayed until his death can be examined by the International Criminal Court.
Libyan National Transitional Council member Mohamed Sayeh said today that a ‘third party’ had to go through the paperwork.
He said Gaddafi’s body was still in Misrata and that the body would be buried with respect, although it will not be a public funeral.
A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the amateur videos showing Gaddafi alive and then dead were “very disturbing”.
Rupert Colville said that an existing panel examining human rights abuses in Libya would examine the death and might recommend a national or international probe.
The NTC insisted today that he had been killed in the crossfire and not assassinated by the rebel fighters.
Gaddafi begged for his life and lives of his sons when he was dragged from a drain outside Sirte, it emerged today.
The leader had often referred to his enemies as "vermin" as he vowed to hunt them down alley by alley or die trying.
But in the end it was he who was hiding like “a rat” when he was finally cornered in a drain, a gold-plated pistol to hand and pleading in vain for his life. "Don't shoot, don't shoot", he said.
His favourite son Saif al-Islam is fighting for his life after being critically wounded in yesterday’s Nato strike.
Another son, Mutassisim was killed alongside his father.
Two other sons, Mohjammed and Hannibal fled to Algeria in August along with Gaddaffi’s wife Safiyah, his daughter Ayesha and other family members.
His son Saadi fled to Niger last month and another son Saif al-Arab was killed in a Nato airstrike on the Gaddafi compound in Tripoli last April.
After 42 years as Libya’s despotic leader, Gaddafi was killed in a field two miles west of his birthplace, having taken shelter in a culvert from rebel fighters and Nato bombs.
His final refuge could not have been more different from the palaces and villas where he had squandered his nation’s oil wealth. The concrete drain pipe was 70ft long and no more than 3ft across, running under a dual carriageway on the outskirts of Sirte.
Sand, rocks and discarded water bottles lined the interior which opened next to a clutch of empty sheep pens. Three bodies of his companions lay outside. They did not look like elite bodyguards or members of an inner circle as they began to gather flies in the afternoon heat.
But then mobile phone footage of Gaddafi’s capture showed that in the end the 69 year-old no longer bore any resemblance to a self-styled “king of kings” with visions of a United States of Africa.
The shaky images show him bloodied and unkempt and surrounded by jubilant rebels holding weapons to his head.
His trademark mop of frizzy black hair was matted and thin and his robes were stained red from a wound to his head or neck.
More than anything the footage showed him weak and confused.
“When we had him and we surrounded him he was talking like an idiot,” said 20-year-old Mohammad Elhweje, who was one of ten fighters from Misrata who captured him. “He was saying, 'What’s going on, what did I do?’ No one could believe it.”
Precisely what happened next remains unclear, but at some point Gaddafi was shot in the head, giving rise to accusations that he had been executed.
William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, conceded that videos and photographs posted online “suggested” he had been assassinated, adding that Britain “does not approve of extra-judicial killings”.
Gaddafi’s death brought to an end the bloody eight-month battle to free Libya from his iron grip.
Mahmoud Jibril, the prime minister of the interim National Transitional Council, said: “We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Gaddafi has been killed.
“All the evils have vanished from this beloved country. It’s time to start a new Libya, a united Libya, one people, one future.”
Between 17 and 20 of Gaddafi’s most senior supporters were killed or captured alongside him. The leader of his armed forces, Abu Bakr Younus, and Gaddafi’s son Mutassim were killed, while Ahmed Ibrahim, a cousin and adviser, and Moussa Ibrahim, his official spokesman, were captured.
Saif al-Islam, the son Gaddafi wanted to succeed him, was also captured, after his convoy was reportedly hit by a strike from an RAF jet near Sirte as he made his own bid for freedom. In one blow, Gaddafi and his entire inner circle had been wiped out.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was proud of Britain’s part in liberating the country and that it was a time to remember all Gaddafi’s victims in Libya and in Britain, through the Lockerbie bombing, the shooting of WPc Yvonne Fletcher and the victims of Libyan-aided IRA terrorism.
President Barack Obama said the “dark shadow of tyranny” had been lifted.
Gaddafi’s final hours began with a dramatic attempt to break out of the city which had been pounded by rebel fighters for two weeks.
Loyalists had staunchly defended District 2, an area of around 1,000 yards by 500 yards in the north-west of the city, feeding speculation that high-ranking members of the regime were hiding. As the circle closed, they tried a desperate dash for freedom soon after dawn yesterday.
Fighters who witnessed it said it began at 8.30 local time when a column of 15 to 20 cars tried to punch out into the western suburb of Zafran. The break caused confusion among rebels who were preparing an offensive into District 2 from the same direction.
The Daily Telegraph was accompanying fighters getting ready for the assault and witnessed an intense fight as rebel positions found themselves under fire from an unexpected direction.
The convoy managed to evade the front line and drive about two miles west and then, for some reason, parked close to an electricity sub station.
“Gaddafi and some of his inner circle tried to run away,” explained Ali Gadi, a 21-year-old member of the unit which found him.
In the confusion, the convoy had been followed by some rebel fighters from the western front, but they were lightly armed and under-strength.
“They stopped out here. It wasn’t clear who was with them and what sort of firepower they had,” said Mr Gadi. “We held back for a while to see what they would do.”
Unknown to the rebels, the convoy had not escaped the surveillance of Nato.
Just as the rebel brigades were deciding what to do, it was hit by at least one bomb in a Nato air strike, causing devastation among the tightly-packed vehicles.
The Telegraph counted 14 smouldering cars and pick-up trucks and at least 25 dead bodies.
Somehow Gaddafi escaped, but his situation had become hopeless.
He was also being watched from the sky by an enemy who could rain bombs upon him. He and a handful of others fled north around 200 yards down the main road and sheltered in the drain.
As members of the al Watan brigade from Misrata approached the smouldering cars, they had no suspicion their former leader was close by.
“We thought Mutassim [Gaddafi’s son] might have tried to escape,” said Mr Elhweje. “Then Gaddafi came out. One of our guys grabbed him in a bear hug.”
Running on foot and with his baggage smouldering in the destroyed vehicles, Gaddafi was not found with many possessions, but those he was carrying were displayed among the fighters as spoils.
One held a gold-plated automatic pistol which he said he had taken from the deposed leader.
Another held a dainty-looking man’s black leather boot which he said had been stripped from Gaddafi’s foot.
Rebels marked the spot by spray-painting above the drain the words: “This is the place where the rat Gaddafi was hiding.”
Fighters swarmed from nearby to see the captive with their own eyes.
The prisoner was then bundled into the back of a pickup. Rebels and mobile phone footage confirm that at the time he was alive, though wounded.
One clip showed him staggering on his feet and apparently talking.
Gaddafi was driven to a dressing station and field hospital on the main road towards Misurata, on the west of the city, but the vehicles just pulled up on the side of the road, before proceeding to Misurata in a swelling convoy.
Pictures released later showed that at some point he had been shot – executed, perhaps – with a bullet to his left temple.
In Tripoli, as the first reports came through, crowds gathered in the streets, chanting: “God is great, God is great, Gaddafi has been captured.” Their jubilant shouts were accompanied by the inevitable celebratory gunfire.
By 1.10pm UK time, a presenter draped in the flag of the liberated Libya made the official announcement of Gaddafi’s capture on NTC-controlled state television.
“Gaddafi is in the hands of the rebels,” he said. “We have captured Gaddafi. Libya is joyous, Libya is celebrating, Libya has given a lesson to all those who want to learn.”
The NTC spokesman Abdel Majid announced that Gaddafi had been “wounded in both legs”. But even as the first questions were being asked about where Gaddafi would go on trial, the NTC made another announcement, saying Gaddafi was dead.
“He was also hit in the head,” said Mr Majid. “There was a lot of firing against his group and he died.”
Incredibly, the Gaddafi-supporting television channel Al-Libiya remained defiant, saying the reports of his death were “baseless”.
The world would not have to wait long for evidence to prove otherwise. By 1.45pm a picture of a blood-drenched Gaddafi, apparently still alive, had been posted online after being filmed by a rebel fighter on a mobile phone.
It was followed by footage on Al-Jazeera television of Gaddafi being rolled over on the ground by jubilant rebel fighters who pulled off his shirt and appeared to kick him. Within hours his corpse was in Misurata, the city that suffered more than any other in the eight-month struggle to overthrow him, where it was placed in a mosque to be given a Muslim funeral.
In Sirte, meanwhile, it had become clear that resistance had finished and the besieging forces swept in.
Under Gaddafi’s rule Sirte became a second capital and vision of a modern Libya. After two weeks of intense bombardment and street fighting that vision is in uninhabitable ruins.
Everywhere were signs of devastation. The streets were littered with masonry, spent bullet casings and burnt cars.
It was difficult to find a building not riddled with bullet or shellholes. Unexploded mortar round stood half buried in the asphalt.
NTC fighters confirmed the battle of Sirte was over by hoisting the red, black and green national flag above a large utilities building in the centre of the district that had held out the longest.
At the Libyan Embassy in London, Mahmoud al-Naku, the NTC’s diplomatic envoy, said: “A black era has come to an end forever. The Libyan people are looking forward to a promising future where they finally start building their free democratic state.”
Outside Libya, the families of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing and of WPc Yvonne Fletcher, fear the truth of what happened to their loved ones might have died with him.
Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the Lockerbie bombing, said the apparent “revenge” killing of Gaddafi had denied the world the opportunity to send him to the International Criminal Court to be tried.
“Gaddafi could have been a useful source of information about Lockerbie,” he said. “I think he would have known that the attack was going to be done and how it was going to be done. He might have been able to tell us what he knew if he had not been killed in a fit of revenge.”
Mr Cameron said Gaddafi’s death meant the Libyan people now had “an even greater chance” of building a better country. He said: “I think today is a day to remember all of Col Gaddafi’s victims, from those who died in connection with the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, to Yvonne Fletcher in a London street, and obviously all the victims of IRA terrorism who died through their use of Libyan semtex.
“We should also remember the many, many Libyans who died at the hands of this brutal dictator and his regime.”
He said that Britain would “help” the new Libyan government.
Mr Obama warned that there would be “difficult days ahead” on the road to full democracy.
He said: “For four decades the Gaddafi regime ruled the Libyan people with an iron fist? today we can definitively say that the Gaddafi regime has come to an end.”
Gaddafi’s death paves the way for British and other Nato forces to end their six-month campaign in the north African country within weeks.
Mr Hague said: “It brings much closer the end of the Nato mission.”
However, he added that before leaving the country, “I think we will want to be sure there aren’t any other pockets of pro-Gaddafi forces.”