End of a tyrant: As word of Gaddafi's death spread, the cheers rang out

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

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 stunning rumours yesterday spiralled into the 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 hole in the temple.

A senior Libyan official said DNA tests were being carried out to confirm the body was his. The National Transitional Council later issued a statement saying the ex-dictator had not been executed but had perished in crossfire. If Gaddafi died like a dog in a gutter, most in Libya were not 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. Another son, Saif al-Islam – once the regime's most visible face of defiance and his father's heir – was also rumoured to be dead, though 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 his death began when Western intelligence intercepted communications that suggested he was in Sirte. Defence sources yesterday told The Independent that NTC fighters had focused all their energies on penetrating the stronghold after they were informed of the communications between commanders of the remnants of the regime forces.

Most versions of events agreed that Gaddafi and his supporters attempted to flee the city in an 80-vehicle convoy in the early morning but were hit by Nato air strikes carried out by French warplanes at around 8.30am local time. A US surveillance drone is also reported to have fired a missile at the convoy. Fifteen pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns were destroyed in the strike, leaving some 50 bodies strewn across the grass where they were hit.

Gaddafi fled into a copse of trees and hid with bodyguards in a concrete culvert under a nearby highway. A group of fighters gave chase.

"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'," Bakeer said.

The former Libyan leader was then dragged out and placed on to the truck from which he would later be dragged. Western officials insist that the Nato missions, which included RAF reconnaissance aircraft, were not directly responsible for the death of the former dictator. But the decision to carry out the air strikes on the fleeing convoy was the result of a change in policy by Nato in response to the intercepted communications.

Previously the Western forces had avoided such attacks because such targets were seen as posing no immediate threat. According to some NTC sources, it was some of Gaddafi's bodyguards, cornered and threatened with execution, who revealed his whereabouts.

In Brussels, Nato hinted that the death of Gaddafi could signal the beginning of a winding-down of the international military operation in the skies over Libya. One official suggested that a "phasing-out" of operations could begin in the coming weeks. The official said: "Today's events will prompt the military chain of command to make a new assessment... If the decision is to end operations, it will be done through a gradual phasing-out. Military operations are very rarely terminated. One takes the time to be absolutely sure the fire is out."

When questioned on the role British forces will play in Libya now that Gaddafi has been killed, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We have to let the dust settle and see what happens with any remaining Gaddafi loyalists. Our part in Nato operations will continue until they are no longer required."

The final spasms of the violence in Sirte were relayed to a stunned nation and to rapt television viewers around the world. Mobile phone video footage was played on news channels globally, apparently taken by a rebel fighter, showing the bloodied and stripped corpse of Gaddafi being tumbled in a sheet. He was 69 years old and had ruled for 42 years. While euphoria exploded on the streets of Tripoli and other Libyan cities, David Cameron said it was a day to remember all of Gaddafi's victims, a reference to the Libyan people and to the victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing in 1988.

He added: "People in Libya today have an even greater chance after this news of building themselves a strong and democratic future."

The elimination of Gaddafi also meant a pre-election boost for President Barack Obama after a long summer with scant sign that the rebels would prevail. Speaking at the White House last night, he said that a dark shadow had been lifted. "This is a momentous day in the history of Libya," he said, before addressing the country's people directly with the words: "You have won your revolution."

News of Gaddafi's grisly end brought instant joy to families of the Pan Am victims. "I hope he's in hell with Hitler," said Kathy Tedeschi, who lost her husband, Bill Daniels, in the bombing. "I saw it on the TV... I just can't stop crying, I am so thrilled," said Mrs Tedeschi, 62, who had three children with Mr Daniels. "I am sure [Gaddafi] was the one who pushed to have this done, the bombing."

Amnesty International, on the other hand, called for an inquiry into the manner of Gaddafi's death.

The death of Gaddafi and the end of hostilities in Sirte mean Libya's interim government can declare the country fully liberated and start preparations for elections. "It's a great victory for us," said NTC military spokesman Abdul Rahman Busin. "Sirte has officially fallen, which means the liberation of Libya can be announced in the next 24 to 48 hours." Mr Busin said it was unlikely pro-Gaddafi fighters would continue to resist. "They were fighting for him [Gaddafi]. There's no reason for them to fight any more," he said.

In quotes world response...

"Our people have paid a high price. It is not important whether Gaddafi faces trial or whether he's alive or dead"

Mahmoud al-Naku, Libyan charge d'affairs in London

"All the evils, plus Gaddafi, have vanished from this beloved country. It's for the Libyans to realise that it's time to start a new Libya, a united Libya, one people, one future"

Mahmoud Jibril, Prime Minister of Libya

"I am totally overwhelmed. There are grown men in my office who are crying at this news. Today marks the start of a new Libya"

Moez, a resident of Tripoli

"Today is a day to remember all of Gaddafi's victims, from those who died in connection with the Pan-Am flight over Lockerbie, to Yvonne Fletcher in a London street, and ... all the victims of IRA terrorism who died through their use of Libyan Semtex"

David Cameron

"God will punish him. We have seen 42 years of hell, so it's all an improvement from here"

Hadil, a student in Tripoli

"Combatants on all sides must lay down their arms in peace. This is the time for healing and rebuilding... not for revenge"

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General

"I hope he's in hell with Hitler"

Kathy Tedeschi, whose husband died in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing

"There is much still to be resolved about [the Lockerbie bombing] issue and Gaddafi. Now that he is dead we may have lost an opportunity for getting nearer to the truth"

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, died at Lockerbie

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells