SIRTE, Libya — Imad Moustaf, a rebel fighter, said he witnessed the capture and killing of toppled Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi Thursday in Sirte, the ruler’s hometown.
Moustaf said Gaddafi had been shot in the head and close to the heart on the outskirts of the western roundabout of Sirte, where he was hiding in a hole surrounded by bodyguards. Moustaf claimed to have been in the ambulance with Gaddafi when he died.
Other rebel fighters said that Gaddafi’s body, along with dozens of loyalist prisoners, was being taken to Misrata.
The National Transitional Council, the current government authority in Libya, later confirmed that the rebels had captured and killed Gaddafi but did not release further details about his death. The U.S. State Department has yet to confirm Gaddafi’s death.
Libyan rebels first took arms in February after a popular protest movement gripped the eastern part of the country. The conflict was largely a stalemate until NATO forces began flying sorties over the country in late March. Although the capital of Tripoli fell last month, loyalist soldiers holed up in Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, had been making a last stand for several weeks until Thursday morning, when rebel forces finally gained control of the entire city.
- In Sirte, rebel fighters have been firing celebratory volleys into the air, reports the BBC‘s correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse. The man reportedly responsible for finding and capturing Gaddafi, 20-year-old Mohammed al-Bibi, is being carried on his comrades shoulders’ as a hero.
- The Misrata military council has prepared a statement thanking Allah for Gaddafi’s capture, according to the Guardian‘s correspondent Chris Stephens. Misrata has erupted in “wild celebrations,” Libyan exiles who have spoken to compatriots on the ground have told him.
- Footage on Sky News also shows celebrations in Tripoli, where drivers are honking horns non-stop.
- An unnamed NATO official, cited by Sky News, said: “Clearly these are very significant developments, which will take time to confirm. If it is true, then this is truly a historic day for the people of Libya.”
- Neither the US State Department nor the White House has commented, Reuters reports. State Department officials say they have not received confirmation of the reports of Gaddafi’s capture.
- US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cannot confirm reported capture, but says if they it is true she would “breathe a sigh of relief as one more obstacle was removed,” reports the Guardian.
- Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says the war in Libya is now “over”, reports Ansa news wire.
- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte hailed the reported capture as “good news”, according to Sky News. He also said he hoped Gaddafi would face the International Criminal Court, the Guardian reports.
- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says the Libyan people should decide Gaddafi’s fate, according to the Guardian.