Gaddafi’s death – who pulled the trigger?

SIRTE, Libya,  (Reuters) – Disturbing images of a  blood-stained and shaken Muammar Gaddafi being dragged around by  angry fighters quickly circulated around the world after the  Libyan dictator’s dramatic death near his home town of Sirte.
The exact circumstances of his demise are still unclear with  conflicting accounts of his death emerging. But the footage,  possibly of the last chaotic moments of Gaddafi’s life, offered  some clues into what happened.

Libyans celebrate at Martyrs square in Tripoli October 20, 2011 after hearing the news that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny
Libyans celebrate at Martyrs square in Tripoli October 20, 2011 after hearing the news that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Gaddafi was still alive when he was captured near Sirte. In  the video, filmed by a bystander in the crowd and later aired on  television, Gaddafi is shown being dragged off a vehicle’s  bonnet and pulled to the ground by his hair.
“Keep him alive, keep him alive!” someone shouts. Gunshots  then ring out. The camera veers off.
“They captured him alive and while he was being taken away,  they beat him and then they killed him,” one senior source in  the NTC told Reuters. “He might have been resisting.”
In what appeared to contradict the events depicted in the  video, Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council said Gaddafi  was killed when a gunfight broke out after his capture between  his supporters and government fighters. He died from a bullet  wound to the head, the prime minister said.
The NTC said no order had been given to kill  him.
Gaddafi called the rebels who rose up against his 42 years  of one-man rule “rats”, but in the end it appeared that it was  he who was captured cowering in a drainage pipe full of rubbish  and filth.
“He called us rats, but look where we found him,” said Ahmed  Al Sahati, a 27-year-old government fighter, standing next to  two stinking drainage pipes under a six-lane highway near Sirte.
On the ground, government fighters described scenes of sheer  carnage as they told stories of Gaddafi’s final hours.
Shortly before dawn prayers, Gaddafi, surrounded by a few  dozen loyal bodyguards and accompanied by the head of his now  non-existent army Abu Bakr Younis Jabr, broke out of the  two-month siege of Sirte and made a break for the west.
They did not get far.
France said its aircraft struck military vehicles belonging  to Gaddafi forces near Sirte at about 8:30 a.m. (0630 GMT), but  said it was unsure whether the strikes had killed Gaddafi. A  NATO official said the convoy was hit either by a French plane  or a U.S. Predator drone.
Two miles (3 km) west of Sirte, 15 pick-up trucks mounted  with machine guns lay burnt out, smashed and smouldering next to  an electricity substation 20 metres from the main road.
They had clearly been hit by a force far beyond anything the  motley army the former rebels has assembled during eight months  of revolt to overthrow the once feared leader.
But there was no bomb crater, indicating the strike may have  been carried out by a fighter jet.
Inside the trucks still in their seats sat the charred  skeletal remains of drivers and passengers killed instantly by  the strike. Other bodies lay mutilated and contorted strewn  across the grass. Some 50 bodies in all.

Fighters on the ground said Gaddafi and a handful of his men  appeared to have run through a stand of trees and taken refuge  in the two drainage pipes.
“At first we fired at them with anti-aircraft guns, but it  was no use,” said Salem Bakeer, while being feted by his  comrades near the road. “Then we went in on foot.
“One of Gaddafi’s men came out waving his rifle in the air  and shouting surrender, but as soon as he saw my face he started  shooting at me,” he told Reuters.
“Then I think Gaddafi must have told them to stop. ‘My  master is here, my master is here’, he said, ‘Muammar Gaddafi is  here and he is wounded’,” said Bakeer.
“We went in and brought Gaddafi out. He was saying ‘what’s  wrong? What’s wrong? What’s going on?’. Then we took him and put  him in the car,” Bakeer said.
At the time of his capture, Gaddafi was already wounded with  gunshots to his leg and to his back, Bakeer said.
Other government fighters who said they took part in  Gaddafi’s capture, separately confirmed Bakeer’s version of  events, though one said the man who ruled Libya for 42 years was  shot and wounded at the last minute by one of his own men.
“One of Muammar Gaddafi’s guards shot him in the chest,”  said Omran Jouma Shawan.
There were also other versions of events. NTC official Abdel  Majid Mlegta told Reuters Gaddafi had been finally cornered in a  compound in Sirte after hours of fighting, and wounded in a gun  battle with NTC forces.
He said Gaddafi kept repeating “What is the matter? What’s  going on? What do you want?” and resisted as NTC fighters seized  him. He added that Gaddafi died of his wounds as he was being  transported in an ambulance.
“He was bleeding from his stomach. It took a long time to  transport him. He bled to death (in the ambulance),” he said.
Another NTC official, speaking to Reuters anonymously, gave  a violent account of Gaddafi’s death: “They (NTC fighters) beat  him very harshly and then they killed him. This is a war.”
Video footage showed Gaddafi, dazed and wounded, but still  clearly alive and as he was dragged from the front of a pick-up  truck by a crowd of angry jostling government soldiers who hit  him and pulled his hair to drag him to the ground.
He then appeared to fall to the ground and was enveloped by  the crowd. NTC officials later announced Gaddafi had died of his  wounds after capture.
Someone in the crowd shouted “keep him alive, keep him  alive”, but another fighter cried out in a high pitched crazed  scream. Gaddafi then goes out of view and gunshots are heard.
Further footage showed what appeared to be Gaddafi’s  lifeless body being loaded into an ambulance in Sirte.
One of the fighters who said he took part in the capture  brandished a heavily engraved golden pistol he said he had taken  from Gaddafi.
Fallen electricity cables partially covered the entrance to  the pipes and the bodies of three men, apparently Gaddafi  bodyguards lay at the entrance to one end, one in shorts  probably due to a bandaged wound on his leg.
Four more bodies lay at the other end of the pipes. All  black men, one had his brains blown out, another man had been  decapitated, his dreadlocked head lying beside his torso.
Army chief Jabr was also captured alive, Bakeer said. NTC  officials later announced he was dead.
Joyous government fighters fired their weapons in the air,  shouted “Allahu Akbar” and posed for pictures. Others wrote  graffiti on the concrete parapets of the highway. One said  simply: “Gaddafi was captured here.”

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