Deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi has been killed in the fall of his hometown, according to Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril.
“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Moammar Gaddafi has been killed,” Jibril told a news conference in the capital Tripoli.
Switzerland called for human rights and international humanitarian law to be respected in Libya. In a statement, the foreign ministry appealed to the various sides “to exercise restraint and avoid acts of retaliation”.
The department of Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey urged those involved “to enter into an inclusive dialogue with a view to establishing stability in the region”.
It added that Gaddafi’s death would enable the National Transitional Council (NTC) “to continue along the path to democratic transition in a country living under the yoke of a dictator for more than 40 years”.
Initial reports from fighters said Gaddafi had been holed up with the last of his fighters in the furious battle with revolutionary fighters assaulting the last few buildings they held in his Mediterranean coastal hometown of Sirte.
At one point, a convoy tried to flee the area and was blasted by Nato airstrikes, though it was not clear if Gaddafi was in the vehicle.
Al-Jazeera television showed footage of a man resembling the 69-year-old Gaddafi lying dead or severely wounded, bleeding from the head and stripped to the waist as fighters rolled him over on the pavement.
Al-Jazeera said Gaddafi’s body had been placed in a mosque in Misrata. Al-Arabiyya television said the body was in Misrata, but in a commercial centre in the city’s Souq Tawansa neighbourhood.
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.
Gaddafi leaves behind an oil-rich nation of 6.5 million traumatised by a 42-year rule that drained it of institutions while the ship of state was directed by the whims of one man and his family.
Human rights group Amnesty International said Libya’s new leaders must bring to justice all those suspected of human rights abuses under Gaddafi’s fallen regime.
“The legacy of repression and abuse from Colonel Moammar Gaddafi’s rule will not end until there is a full accounting for the past and human rights are embedded in Libya’s new institutions,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s deputy director for North Africa and the Middle East.
For its part, Switzerland – which in recent years has had a strained relationship with Libya has been supporting the transition in the north Africa country since early in the anti-Gaddafi uprising, which began on February 15 as a series of peaceful protests which were met with military force by the Gaddafi regime.
The protests escalated into an uprising that spread across the country, with the forces opposing Gaddafi establishing a government based in Benghazi named the National Transitional Council.
The civil war is viewed as a part of the Arab Spring, which has already resulted in the ousting of long-term presidents of adjacent Tunisia and Egypt.
At the beginning of September, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said Switzerland wanted to hand over as soon as possible $380 million (SFr340 million) belonging to Libyan public entities “for the benefit of the Libyan people”.
Speaking at an international conference on the future of Libya in Paris, she said the international community had the duty to hand back the money “to satisfy the urgent humanitarian needs of the people, and to help in the reconstruction of the country”.
On September 15 the United Nations Security Council gave the Swiss authorities the green light to return SFr350 million ($399 million) of blocked funds to Libya. Around SFr300 million belonging to the Libyan regime remain blocked by Switzerland.
In March, Switzerland was one of the first countries to open a humanitarian aid unit in Benghazi. A special envoy was then sent to the rebel-held city in July to develop ties with the NTC and protect Swiss interests on the ground.
The Swiss embassy in Tripoli was re-opened this weekend, having been closed since February.