Confirmed: Moammar Gadhafi Killed During Sirte Airstrike

SIRTE, Libya (AP) - Libya's information minister said Moammar
Gadhafi was killed Thursday when revolutionary forces overwhelmed
his hometown, Sirte, the last major bastion of resistance two
months after the regime fell. Amid the fighting, a NATO airstrike
blasted a fleeing convoy that fighters said was carrying Gadhafi.
The head of Libya's interim government did not immediately
confirm Gadhafi's capture or death, and many officials said they
were still trying to verify what happened.
Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam said he was told that
Gadhafi was dead from fighters who said they saw the body.
"Our people in Sirte saw the body," Shammam told The
Associated Press. "Revolutionaries say Gadhafi was in a convoy and
that they attacked the convoy." He said the government head,
Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, would officially confirm the death, but it was
not clear when. Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, the number two in
the administration, called a press conference for 4 p.m. local time
(10 a.m EDT)
Al-Jazeera TV showed photos of a man resembling Gadhafi lying
dead or severely wounded. Other military officials in the
government also said Gadhafi was dead and several revolutionary
groups fighting in Sirte also said he was either killed or
captured.
Celebratory gunfire and cries of "Allahu Akbar" or "God is
Great" rang out across Tripoli as the reports spread. Cars honked
their horns and people hugged each other. In Sirte, the ecstatic
former rebels celebrated the city's fall after weeks of bloody
siege by firing endless rounds into the sky, pumping their guns,
knives and even a meat cleaver in the air and singing the national
anthem.
Despite the fall of Tripoli on Aug. 21, Gadhafi loyalists
mounted fierce resistance in several areas, including Sirte,
preventing Libya's new leaders from declaring full victory in the
eight-month civil war. Earlier this week, revolutionary fighters
gained control of one stronghold, Bani Walid, and by Tuesday said
they had squeezed Gadhafi's forces in Sirte into a residential area
of about 700 square yards but were still coming under heavy fire
from surrounding buildings.
Reporters at the scene watched as the final assault began around
8 a.m. and ended about 90 minutes later. Just before the battle,
about five carloads of Gadhafi loyalists tried to flee the enclave
down the coastal highway that leads out of the city. But they were
met by gunfire from the revolutionaries, who killed at least 20 of
them.
Col. Roland Lavoie, spokesman for NATO's operational
headquarters in Naples, Italy, said the alliance's aircraft
Thursday morning struck two vehicles of pro-Gadhafi forces "which
were part of a larger group maneuvering in the vicinity of Sirte."
But NATO officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in
accordance to alliance rules, said the alliance also could not
independently confirm whether Gadhafi was killed or captured.
After the battle, revolutionaries began searching homes and
buildings looking for any hiding Gadhafi fighters. At least 16 were
captured, along with cases of ammunition and trucks loaded with
weapons. Reporters saw revolutionaries beating captured Gadhafi men
in the back of trucks and officers intervening to stop them.
In an illustration of how difficult and slow the fighting for
Sirte was, it took the anti-Gadhafi fighters two days to capture a
single residential building.
In the central quarter where Thursday's final battle took place,
the fighters looking like the same ragtag force that started the
uprising eight months ago jumped up and down with joy and flashed
V-for-victory signs. Some burned the green Gadhafi flag, then
stepped on it with their boots.
They chanted "Allah akbar," or "God is great" in Arabic,
while one fighter climbed a traffic light pole to unfurl the
revolution's flag, which he first kissed. Discarded military
uniforms of Gadhafi's fighters littered the streets. One
revolutionary fighter waved a silver trophy in the air while
another held up a box of firecrackers, then set them off.
"Our forces control the last neighborhood in Sirte," Hassan
Draoua, a member of Libya's interim National Transitional Council,
told The Associated Press in Tripoli. "The city has been
liberated."
The Misrata Military Council, one of the command groups, said
its fighters captured Gadhafi. Another commander, Abdel-Basit
Haroun, says Gadhafi was killed when the airstrike hit the fleeing
convoy.
In a sign of the conflicting versions, military spokesman Col.
Ahmed Bani in Tripoli told Al-Jazeera TV, "I can assure everyone
in Libya that Gadhafi has been killed for sure and I'm definitely
sure and I reassure everyone that this story has ended and this
book has closed."
But rather than a strike on the convoy, he said a wounded
Gadhafi "tried to resist (revolutionary forces) so they took him
down."
The spokesman for Libya's transitional government, Jalal
al-Gallal, and another military spokesman Abdul-Rahman Busin said
the reports have not been confirmed.
The caution in making a definitive announcement came because
past reports of Gadhafi family deaths or captures have later proven
incorrect, even after they were announced by officials, because of
the confusion among the revolutionary forces' ranks and the
multiple bodies involved in commanding their fighters.
Gadhafi loyalists who have escaped could still continue the
fight and attempt to organize an insurgency using the vast amount
of weapons Gadhafi was believed to have stored in hideouts in the
remote southern desert.
Unlike Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Gadhafi had no well-organized
political party that could form the basis of an insurgent
leadership. However, regional and ethnic differences have already
appeared among the ranks of the revolutionaries, possibly laying
the foundation for civil strife.
Gadhafi has issued several audio recordings trying to rally
supporters. Libyan officials have said they believe he's hiding
somewhere in the vast southwestern desert near the borders with
Niger and Algeria.


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