Dragged into a murderous throng, he did not emerge alive


Click to follow

In the end the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator who had seemed to slip from the grasp of the rebels who forced him out of power, was as undignified and brutal as those of so many of his enemies over the years.

After the rumours yesterday that he had been captured spiralled into news that he had been killed, video footage surfaced that showed him being dragged, bloodied but alive, from a truck and into a murderous throng. He did not emerge.

Later footage showed his lifeless body in a pool of blood on the pavement, apparently with a bullet wound to the temple. A senior Libyan official said DNA tests were being carried out to confirm the body was his.

Few in Libya were grieving. "We confirm that all the evils, plus Gaddafi, have vanished from this beloved country," the Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril, declared in Tripoli, attempting to put a lid on the uncertainty surrounding the news that had already been rumoured so many times before. "It's time to start a new Libya, a united Libya," Mr Jibril added. "One people, one future."

The sense of a transformative day was augmented by the news that Gaddafi's Defence Minister, Abu Bakr Yunis, had also been killed, and claims of the death of the dictator's son Mo'tassim Gaddafi. Another son, Saif al-Islam – once the regime's most visible face of defiance – was also rumoured to be dead, although there were other claims he had been captured or cornered.

Although many competing narratives emerged, it was at least possible to say last night that the chain of events leading to Gaddafi's death began when Western intelligence intercepted communications suggesting he was in Sirte.

Most versions of events agreed that Gaddafi and his supporters attempted to flee the city in an 80-vehicle convoy but were hit by Nato airstrikes carried out by French warplanes. Then revolutionary fighters moved in on Gaddafi's vehicle, reportedly finding him wounded in both legs. As they approached, the deposed dictator asked: "What do you want?", according to Misrata military council spokesman, Fathi Bashaga.

In Brussels, Nato hinted that the death of Gaddafi could signal the beginning of a winding down of the military operation. One official suggested that a "phasing out" of operations could begin in the coming weeks.

Additional reporting by Cahal Milmo and Richard Hall