- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2011

Moammar Gadhafi, who brutally ruled Libya for more than four decades, died of gunshot wounds after he was captured in his hometown of Sirte on Thursday, but his death leaves many challenges for the revolutionary council now ruling the oil-rich North African nation.

Graphic images of a bloodied but still living Col. Gadhafi being manhandled in a mob were aired on Arab television, raising questions about how the dictator died. Libyan officials said he was killed by a gunshot wound to head during a shootout with revolutionary forces.

“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Moammar Gadhafi has been killed,” Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told reporters in Tripoli.

Col. Gadhafi’s son and national security adviser, Muatassim, also was killed, and another son, Seif al-Islam, his onetime heir apparent, was wounded and captured in Sirte, revolutionary sources told The Washington Times.

Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council will announce on Saturday that the country has been fully liberated after an eight-month revolution that began in the eastern city of Benghazi, said Abdurraheem Al Keeb, a Tripoli representative on the NTC.

The NTC is expected to announce the formation of a transitional government within four weeks of the declaration of freedom, council sources said. Elections to the national assembly must be held within eight months, according to a Libyan road map to democracy, they said.

Mr. Jibril, Libya’s prime minister who has been a lightning rod for criticism from revolutionaries, will resign, keeping a promise he made earlier to leave office once Libya has been liberated, they added.

In Washington, Libya’s ambassador thanked the U.S., NATO and other foreign leaders for helping topple the Gadhafi regime.

“The era of abuse, the era of dictatorship, is over. The dream came true,” said Ambassador Ali Aujali. “Thank you, United States; thank you, NATO; thank you, Egypt; thank you, Qatar; thank you, Tunisia; thank you, the international community.”

Revolutionary sources in Libya gave conflicting accounts of the circumstances surrounding Col. Gadhafi’s death and whether he was mortally wounded when he was captured or had been shot afterward.

Al-Jazeera TV showed footage of a man resembling the 69-year-old Col. Gadhafi being jostled by a crowd of armed men chanting “God is great” in Arabic.

He was later seen lying dead or severely wounded, bleeding from the head and stripped to the waist as his captors rolled him over on the pavement. His body was taken to Misrata, a western city on the Mediterranean coast, where fighters posed for photographs with the corpse.

Mohamed Benrasali, a member of the revolutionary stabilization team for Libya, said anti-Gadhafi forces from Misrata had fired on a white Chevrolet in which Col. Gadhafi was attempting to make a getaway in Sirte’s heavily fortified “Neighborhood 2.” The dictator was wounded in both his legs and suffered a facial injury and died in captivity, he said.

According to another Libyan source, Col. Gadhafi was found hiding in a storm drain.

“He was captured in an underground drain by the freedom fighters. He was dragged away and then he was shot. It is not confirmed if he was injured or they just killed him,” said a Libyan source who spoke on background.

As news of Col. Gadhafi’s death broke, the mood in Tripoli turned euphoric.

“He’s dead. He’s dead,” Mr. Benrasali said in a phone interview with The Times, shouting to be heard over raucous celebrations. “I feel ecstatic. I am more euphoric than I was when Tripoli was liberated.”

The revolutionaries captured Tripoli late in August. On Thursday, they took control of Col. Gadhafi’s tribal stronghold and birthplace Sirte, where Abu Bakr Younus Jabr, the chief of Col. Gadhafi’s armed forces, also was killed.

World reaction came swiftly, as revolutionary officials confirmed Col. Gadhafi’s death.

“The reported death of Moammar Gadhafi marks the end of an era of despotism and repression from which the Libyan people have suffered for too long,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a joint statement.

They called on the revolutionary council to “pursue a broad-based reconciliation process which reaches out to all Libyans and enables a democratic, peaceful and transparent transition in the country.”

The fall of Col. Gadhafi leaves many questions and challenges for a future government:

NATO operations. NATO established a no-fly zone over Libya in March and provided air support to revolutionary forces throughout the conflict, including an airstrike that disrupted a convoy carrying Col. Gadhafi in Sirte on Thursday.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Western military alliance in coming days will terminate its Libya mission in coordination with the United Nations and the National Transitional Council.

“With the reported fall of Bani Walid and Sirte, that moment has now moved much closer,” he said.

A NATO spokesman told The Times there are “various factors that will have to be taken into account — including the situation on the ground and the ability of the National Transitional Council forces to protect civilians themselves.”

Transitional government. The NTC has been recognized as Libya’s legitimate representative body by most countries, including the United States.

However, the council is made up of unelected officials who do not agree on many key issues, and the panel has lost credibility among many Libyans.

Delays by the NTC in forming a transitional government have fueled resentment that largely has been directed at the U.S.-educated Mr. Jibril.

“Mr. Jibril is the sort of leader we don’t want. He is not inclusive and has the charisma of a carpet,” said Mohamed Benrasali, a revolutionary spokesman in Tripoli.

However, Mr. Al Keeb, the Tripoli representative on the NTC, said he has high regard for Mr. Jibril. “We are moving slowly but surely toward a democratic system that honors freedom of speech, so people will speak their minds,” he said.

Frozen assets. The Treasury Department had frozen $34 billion in the Gadhafi regime’s assets. Some of that money has been released to the NTC.

Britain and France also have unfrozen some Libyan assets. A total of $1.5 billion has been unfrozen by the international community so far.

It is not known if Libya will reimburse NATO members for expenses incurred during the liberation effort.

Libya derives most of its wealth from its proven oil reserves, which are estimated at 43.7 billion barrels, the ninth-largest in the world, according to Oil and Gas Journal.

Tribal conflict. Libya’s new rulers are faced with uniting a country sharply split among about 140 tribes. The depth of their loyalties were on display throughout the course of the eight-month conflict.

Col. Gadhafi’s tribal stronghold and hometown Sirte put up stiff resistance to the advancing revolutionaries and provided shelter to the Gadhafis until Thursday.

Meanwhile, groups from the city of Benghazi in the east, and Misrata, Zintan and Tripoli in the west have been vying for roles in a future administration.

Weapons. Libya is awash with weapons, many seized by the revolutionaries from the regime.

In addition, there were reports that huge caches around the country had been breached and emptied of their weapons, some of which may have been taken by al Qaeda insurgents.

More important, Libya’s stockpiles of mustard gas require vigilant supervision.

Since 2004, Libya has been destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons. Libya still has 9.5 tons of mustard gas hidden in the desert, but it no longer has the missiles to deliver it, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Islamists. The role played by Islamists in the revolution has caused some concern among Libyans, who are mostly secular.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the top military commander in Tripoli, founded the now-disbanded Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department.

Mr. Belhaj’s role in the revolution has been the cause of much unease in Libya.

Human rights. The revolutionaries’ treatment of members of the Gadhafi regime, pro-Gadhafi mercenaries and people accused of supporting the former regime has sparked concern among human rights groups.

Diana Eltahawy, a London-based researcher at Amnesty International, said the NTC must ensure that all those suspected of human rights abuses and war crimes are treated humanely and given fair trials.

“Video footage appearing to show Gadhafi alive when captured is a concern, and we have called on the NTC to make sure that they conduct an impartial investigation into his capture to establish the cause of death,” she said.

Col. Gadhafi is the first leader to be killed in the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests that have swept the Middle East and North Africa.

He came to power in a bloodless coup in 1969, when he was 27.

His grip on power started to loosen after his regime cracked down on a protest in the eastern city of Benghazi in February. The brutality of the suppression served as the spark for the revolution that eventually led to his downfall and death.

Revolutionaries seized the eastern half of the country and turned Benghazi into their de facto capital early in the uprising. In the months that followed, they waged a seesaw battle with better trained and armed pro-Gadhafi forces for control of the rest of the country.

The revolutionaries, a ragtag group that had no military experience and was frequently derided by Col. Gadhafi as “rats,” were helped by sustained NATO air power.

Col. Gadhafi repeatedly vowed that he would fight to the death and not leave Libya.

Other members of his family — including his second wife, Sofia; two sons, Mohammed and Hannibal; and a daughter, Aisha — earlier fled to Algeria along with their families. Another son, Saadi, escaped to Niger.

The International Criminal Court in June issued warrants for the arrest of Col. Gadhafi, Seif al-Islam, and the dictator’s brother-in-law and intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi. All three were wanted for committing crimes against humanity.

Moammar Gadhafi, who brutally ruled Libya for more than four decades, died of gunshot wounds after he was captured in his hometown of Sirte on Thursday, but his death leaves many challenges for the revolutionary council now ruling the oil-rich North African nation.

Graphic images of a bloodied but still living Col. Gadhafi being manhandled in a mob were aired on Arab television, raising questions about how the dictator died. Libyan officials said he was killed by a gunshot wound to head during a shootout with revolutionary forces.

“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Moammar Gadhafi has been killed,” Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told reporters in Tripoli.

Col. Gadhafi’s son and national security adviser, Muatassim, also was killed, and another son, Seif al-Islam, his onetime heir apparent, was wounded and captured in Sirte, revolutionary sources told The Washington Times.

Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council will announce on Saturday that the country has been fully liberated after an eight-month revolution that began in the eastern city of Benghazi, said Abdurraheem Al Keeb, a Tripoli representative on the NTC.

The NTC is expected to announce the formation of a transitional government within four weeks of the declaration of freedom, council sources said. Elections to the national assembly must be held within eight months, according to a Libyan road map to democracy, they said.

Mr. Jibril, Libya’s prime minister who has been a lightning rod for criticism from revolutionaries, will resign, keeping a promise he made earlier to leave office once Libya has been liberated, they added.

In Washington, Libya’s ambassador thanked the U.S., NATO and other foreign leaders for helping topple the Gadhafi regime.

“The era of abuse, the era of dictatorship, is over. The dream came true,” said Ambassador Ali Aujali. “Thank you, United States; thank you, NATO; thank you, Egypt; thank you, Qatar; thank you, Tunisia; thank you, the international community.”

Revolutionary sources in Libya gave conflicting accounts of the circumstances surrounding Col. Gadhafi’s death and whether he was mortally wounded when he was captured or had been shot afterward.

Al-Jazeera TV showed footage of a man resembling the 69-year-old Col. Gadhafi being jostled by a crowd of armed men chanting “God is great” in Arabic.

He was later seen lying dead or severely wounded, bleeding from the head and stripped to the waist as his captors rolled him over on the pavement. His body was taken to Misrata, a western city on the Mediterranean coast, where fighters posed for photographs with the corpse.

Mohamed Benrasali, a member of the revolutionary stabilization team for Libya, said anti-Gadhafi forces from Misrata had fired on a white Chevrolet in which Col. Gadhafi was attempting to make a getaway in Sirte’s heavily fortified “Neighborhood 2.” The dictator was wounded in both his legs and suffered a facial injury and died in captivity, he said.

According to another Libyan source, Col. Gadhafi was found hiding in a storm drain.

“He was captured in an underground drain by the freedom fighters. He was dragged away and then he was shot. It is not confirmed if he was injured or they just killed him,” said a Libyan source who spoke on background.

As news of Col. Gadhafi’s death broke, the mood in Tripoli turned euphoric.

“He’s dead. He’s dead,” Mr. Benrasali said in a phone interview with The Times, shouting to be heard over raucous celebrations. “I feel ecstatic. I am more euphoric than I was when Tripoli was liberated.”

The revolutionaries captured Tripoli late in August. On Thursday, they took control of Col. Gadhafi’s tribal stronghold and birthplace Sirte, where Abu Bakr Younus Jabr, the chief of Col. Gadhafi’s armed forces, also was killed.

World reaction came swiftly, as revolutionary officials confirmed Col. Gadhafi’s death.

“The reported death of Moammar Gadhafi marks the end of an era of despotism and repression from which the Libyan people have suffered for too long,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a joint statement.

They called on the revolutionary council to “pursue a broad-based reconciliation process which reaches out to all Libyans and enables a democratic, peaceful and transparent transition in the country.”

The fall of Col. Gadhafi leaves many questions and challenges for a future government:

NATO operations. NATO established a no-fly zone over Libya in March and provided air support to revolutionary forces throughout the conflict, including an airstrike that disrupted a convoy carrying Col. Gadhafi in Sirte on Thursday.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Western military alliance in coming days will terminate its Libya mission in coordination with the United Nations and the National Transitional Council.

“With the reported fall of Bani Walid and Sirte, that moment has now moved much closer,” he said.

A NATO spokesman told The Times there are “various factors that will have to be taken into account — including the situation on the ground and the ability of the National Transitional Council forces to protect civilians themselves.”

Transitional government. The NTC has been recognized as Libya’s legitimate representative body by most countries, including the United States.

However, the council is made up of unelected officials who do not agree on many key issues, and the panel has lost credibility among many Libyans.

Delays by the NTC in forming a transitional government have fueled resentment that largely has been directed at the U.S.-educated Mr. Jibril.

“Mr. Jibril is the sort of leader we don’t want. He is not inclusive and has the charisma of a carpet,” said Mohamed Benrasali, a revolutionary spokesman in Tripoli.

However, Mr. Al Keeb, the Tripoli representative on the NTC, said he has high regard for Mr. Jibril. “We are moving slowly but surely toward a democratic system that honors freedom of speech, so people will speak their minds,” he said.

Frozen assets. The Treasury Department had frozen $34 billion in the Gadhafi regime’s assets. Some of that money has been released to the NTC.

Britain and France also have unfrozen some Libyan assets. A total of $1.5 billion has been unfrozen by the international community so far.

It is not known if Libya will reimburse NATO members for expenses incurred during the liberation effort.

Libya derives most of its wealth from its proven oil reserves, which are estimated at 43.7 billion barrels, the ninth-largest in the world, according to Oil and Gas Journal.

Tribal conflict. Libya’s new rulers are faced with uniting a country sharply split among about 140 tribes. The depth of their loyalties were on display throughout the course of the eight-month conflict.

Col. Gadhafi’s tribal stronghold and hometown Sirte put up stiff resistance to the advancing revolutionaries and provided shelter to the Gadhafis until Thursday.

Meanwhile, groups from the city of Benghazi in the east, and Misrata, Zintan and Tripoli in the west have been vying for roles in a future administration.

Weapons. Libya is awash with weapons, many seized by the revolutionaries from the regime.

In addition, there were reports that huge caches around the country had been breached and emptied of their weapons, some of which may have been taken by al Qaeda insurgents.

More important, Libya’s stockpiles of mustard gas require vigilant supervision.

Since 2004, Libya has been destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons. Libya still has 9.5 tons of mustard gas hidden in the desert, but it no longer has the missiles to deliver it, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Islamists. The role played by Islamists in the revolution has caused some concern among Libyans, who are mostly secular.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the top military commander in Tripoli, founded the now-disbanded Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department.

Mr. Belhaj’s role in the revolution has been the cause of much unease in Libya.

Human rights. The revolutionaries’ treatment of members of the Gadhafi regime, pro-Gadhafi mercenaries and people accused of supporting the former regime has sparked concern among human rights groups.

Diana Eltahawy, a London-based researcher at Amnesty International, said the NTC must ensure that all those suspected of human rights abuses and war crimes are treated humanely and given fair trials.

“Video footage appearing to show Gadhafi alive when captured is a concern, and we have called on the NTC to make sure that they conduct an impartial investigation into his capture to establish the cause of death,” she said.

Col. Gadhafi is the first leader to be killed in the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests that have swept the Middle East and North Africa.

He came to power in a bloodless coup in 1969, when he was 27.

His grip on power started to loosen after his regime cracked down on a protest in the eastern city of Benghazi in February. The brutality of the suppression served as the spark for the revolution that eventually led to his downfall and death.

Revolutionaries seized the eastern half of the country and turned Benghazi into their de facto capital early in the uprising. In the months that followed, they waged a seesaw battle with better trained and armed pro-Gadhafi forces for control of the rest of the country.

The revolutionaries, a ragtag group that had no military experience and was frequently derided by Col. Gadhafi as “rats,” were helped by sustained NATO air power.

Col. Gadhafi repeatedly vowed that he would fight to the death and not leave Libya.

Other members of his family — including his second wife, Sofia; two sons, Mohammed and Hannibal; and a daughter, Aisha — earlier fled to Algeria along with their families. Another son, Saadi, escaped to Niger.

The International Criminal Court in June issued warrants for the arrest of Col. Gadhafi, Seif al-Islam, and the dictator’s brother-in-law and intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi. All three were wanted for committing crimes against humanity.

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