Smoked out of hole, captured, killed
By Hugo Odiogor, Tony Ubani, Clifford Ndujihe, Charles Kumolu, Kingsley Adegboye, Lawani Mikairu & Mike Eboh
LAGOS— MERCURIAL and boastful Libya’s deposed leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi met his Waterloo yesterday when he was cornered in a roadside tunnel in his hometown, Sirte, where he was captured and shot in the head, to terminate his 69 eventful life on earth.
Reports from the war-torn country said Gaddafi was attempting to flee from NATO airstrike in his last stronghold but his convoy came under NATO bombardment. He reportedly survive the assault and ran into a tunnel where he was cornered by National Transition Council troops.
He was captured, dragged out from the convoy. Gaddafi was mortally hurt in the attack and was taken away in an ambulance and later killed. His son, Mutassim, who was earlier held captive by the rebels was also killed.
Jubilant Libyans trooped to the streets in Benghazi, Tripoli, Misrata, Bani Wahid and Sabha as the news spread that Col. Gaddafi had been captured and killed in Sirte where his loyalists had fought gallantly to keep NTC forces at bay. Crowds were firing into the air dancing and jumping in the streets as the six million people of Libya look forward to life after Gaddafi. The battle of Sirte had tested the nerves of NTC fighters as Gaddafi had boasted in his life time that he will fight to the end.
Details of how Gaddafi died remained conflicting as several officials of the National Transitional Council (NTC) and the troops gave varied accounts of the dictator’s final moments.
Several NTC fighters in Sirte said they had seen Gaddafi shot dead, in the head. Others said he was shot at the back but the fleeing deposed leader was cornered and captured in a tunnel near a roadway in Sirte. He was dragged on the streets before he was finally shot.
NTC’s Information Minister, Mahmoud Shammam,said: “Gaddafi was killed in an attack by the fighters, after NATO aircraft attacked two military vehicles in Sirte”. NATO said: “At approximately 0830 local time (2:30 a.m. EDT), yesterday, warplanes struck two pro-Gaddafi forces military vehicles which were part of a larger group moving in the vicinity of Sirte.”
A military official of Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council, Abdel Majid Mlegta, said that Gaddafi was captured and wounded in both legs at dawn as he tried to flee in a convoy which warplanes attacked. He said Gaddafi was also “hit in his head,”and taken away by an ambulance. Mlegta said: “There was a lot of firing against his group and he died.”
The death of Gaddafi is seen by diplomatic watchers as the end of an era but the battle is far from over as NTC fighters are haunting for his most politically influential son, Saif Al-Islam who declared eight months ago that there would be a bloody civil war in the country to quell the popular uprising to the 42 year old dictatorship of his father. Saif al-Islam, and his security chief Abdullah Sanussi are still at large and may still be able to recruit armed followers. Another of his sons especially, Mohammed, the first son, his sister, Ayesha, and Gaddafi’s second wife, are in Algeria.
Drama of Gaddafi’s capture, death
Muammar Gaddafi called the rebels who rose against his 42-years of one-man rule “rats,” but in the end, it was he who was captured cowering in a drainage pipe full of rubbish and filth.
“He called us rats, but look where we found him,” said Ahmed Al Sahati, a 27-year-old government fighter, standing next to two stinking drainage pipes under a six-lane highway.
Government fighters, video evidence and the scenes of sheer carnage nearby, told the story of the dictator’s final hours.
Shortly before dawn prayers on Thursday, Gaddafi surrounded by a few dozen loyal bodyguards and accompanied by the head of his now non-existent army Abu Bakr Younis Jabr broke out of the two-month siege of Sirte and made a break for the west.
Reports said Gaddafi was killed as his convoy of 15 trucks was hit by NATO air strike and his men fled. “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 said.
“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’, said Bakeer. They rushed in and pulled him out like a rat.
His last hours in Sirte
Signs that the Libyan battle had entered its decisive phase came after a brief and unannounced visit to Tripoli by Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton who met with the Leaders of the NTC and pledged American support to the fighters. There had been doubts on the ability of the fighters to rout the pro Gaddafi forces in Sirte which Gaddafi said was going to be the decisive battle ground. After the fall of Tripoli in August, Sirte, the former Libyan leader’s home town, remained one of the final pockets of loyalist resistance.
Diplomatic sources said it was already decided that Col. Gaddafi would be taken out on October 20, 2011 and this may have informed the visit of Mrs. Clinton. The death of Gaddafi is seen as another foreign policy success for the Obama administration which has taken out major political renegades at minimal cost to American lives.
In the last fortnight, National Transitional Council (NTC) forces mounted a major offensive against the city and succeeded in pushing Gaddafi loyalists back towards the sea.
The last significant pocket of resistance was reported to be in District 2, in the North-west of the city.
Free elections in eight months- NTC leader
The Chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil has promised to end Libya’s isolation and build strong relations with other countries of the world. Mustafa Abdel Jalil said the ‘new’ Libya does not wish to be isolated. The leader of Libya’s NTC added that the new government will hold free elections within eight months and pledged to put Muammar Gaddafi on trial in the country rather than an international court.
He said: “In eight months we will hold legislative and presidential elections,” said Jalil, chairman of the NTC which now controls all but isolated pockets of the oil-rich state.
“We want a democratic government and a just constitution. Above all, we do not wish to continue to be isolated in the world as we have been up to now,” he said.
“Hopefully this transitional period will be safe, without blood,” he added.
The eight-month war
The protests, unrest and confrontations began in earnest on February 15, 2011. On the evening of February 15, between 500 and 600 demonstrators protested in front of Benghazi’s police headquarters after the arrest of human rights lawyer Fathi Terbil. The protest was broken up violently by police, resulting in clashes in which 38 people were injured, among them 10 security personnel.
The novelist Idris Al-Mesmari was arrested hours after giving an interview with Al Jazeera about the police reaction to protests. In Bayda and Zintan, hundreds of protesters in each town called for an end of the Gaddafi regime and set fire to police and security buildings.
In Zintan, the protesters set up tents in the town centre. The armed protests continued the following day in Benghazi, Derna and Bayda. Libyan security forces allegedly responded with lethal force.
Hundreds gathered at Maydan al-Shajara in Benghazi, and authorities tried to disperse protesters with water cannons.
The Libyan National Transitional Council flag is flown from a communications tower in Bayda in July.
A “Day of Rage” in Libya and by Libyans in exile was planned for February 17. The National Conference for the Libyan Opposition asked that all groups opposed to the Gaddafi regime protest on February 17, in memory of demonstrations in Benghazi five years earlier.
The plans to protest were inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolution. Protests took place in Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Derna, Zintan, and Bayda. Libyan security forces fired live ammunition into the armed protests. Protesters torched a number of government buildings, including a police station.
In Tripoli, protesters managed to burn security buildings and the People’s Hall. According to Amnesty International, “much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime’s security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no security challenge”.
On February 18 police and army personnel later withdrew from Benghazi after being overwhelmed by protesters.
Oil and Blood in Libya
Gaddafi oversaw the rapid development of Libya, which was previously known for little more than oil wells and deserts where huge tank battles took place in World War Two. The economy is now paying the price of war and sanctions.
One of his first tasks on taking power was to build up the armed forces, but he also spent billions of dollars of oil income on improving living standards, making him popular with the lowly-paid.
Gaddafi poured money into giant projects such as a steel plant in the town of Misrata — the scene of bitter fighting — and the Great Man-Made River, a scheme to pipe water from desert wells to coastal communities.
A history of violence marks Gaddafi tenure
Late Libya leader, Col Muamar Gaddafi was born to a Bedouin family in Sirte in 1946. In 1969, Gaddafi, then a 27-year-old army captain, led a largely peaceful coup that overthrew Libya British-backed King Idris, a pro-Western monarch and became Libya’s undisputed ruler. He championed nationalism, pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism and the quasi-socialist Jamahiriya, or a ‘’republic ruled by the masses’’. He elaborated his ideologies in circuitous speeches as well as his notorious Green Book.
He always played on his humble, tribal roots. His legitimacy depended on his anti-colonialist credentials at first, and then on keeping the country in perpetual revolution. His political philosophy, expounded at length in the Green Book, was “government by the masses”.
In 1977, Gaddafi proclaimed the Libyan “Jamahiriya”-a neologism meaning roughly state of the masses. The theory was that Libya had become a democracy of the people, governed through local popular Revolutionary Councils.
In 1980s Gaddafi supported terrorist groups including the IRA and radical Palestinian factions. During nearly 41 years in power, he supported radical armed groups as diverse as the IRA in Northern Ireland and the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines.
,In April 1984, dissidents protesting outside Libya’s embassy in St James’s Square, London, came under fire from Gaddafi’s loyalists inside the building.
British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, was shot dead. In 1986 ,after Libya was found responsible for a bomb blast at a Berlin discotheque frequented by US troops, US jets bombed Tripoli and Bengazi, Libiya two major cities, killing Gaddafi’s adopted baby daughter.
1988 witnessed another major violence in Gaddafi’s tenure when a bomb blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people. Two Libyans are eventually accused of planting the bomb.
In 1999 in an early sign of trying to rehabilitate his image, Gaddafi handed over two Libyans charged in the Lockerbie bombing. And in 2001a Scottish court convicted one of the alleged Lockerbie bombers, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, and sentenced him to life imprisonment. In 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing, and agreed to pay up to $US10 million to the relatives of each of the 270 victims, and declares it will dismantle all weapons of mass destruction.
Megrahi, was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds because he has prostate cancer. He was given a hero’s welcome in Libya.
In a build up to the series of riots and protests that eventually led to Gaddafi being killed today in his home town of Sirte , riot police clashed with protesters in Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi in February 16, 2011 Marchers set fire to security headquarters and police stations in two other cities.
In February 17th, protesters defied a crackdown and took to the streets in five cities. At least 20 were killed in clashes with pro-government groups. The riots and killings continued on February 18th in Benghazi. 35 people killed as protesters try to march on one of Gaddafi’s residences.
February 19th was another sad day as pro-government forces fired on mourners leaving a funeral for protesters in Benghazi, killing at least 15 people.
Signs that late Muamar Gaddafi’s regime will soon end occurred on February 20th as Protests spread to the capital, Tripoli. At least 60 people are killed, bringing the overall death toll in five days to more than 200.
Deep cracks open in Gaddafi’s regime on February 21st as the intensity of the protest increased. Human Rights Watch puts the overall death toll at 233.