By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Libya’s leaders are hailing a new chapter for the country after the death of ousted strongman Muammar Qaddafi.
Mahmud Jibril, the prime minister of Libya’s transitional government, has confirmed that Qaddafi was killed in his last stronghold of Sirte.
In the eastern city of Benghazi, National Transitional Council (NTC) spokesman Abdel Gogha told a news conference, “We announce to the world that Muammar Qaddafi has been killed at the hands of the revolutionaries and Qaddafi’s tyranny and dictatorship have finally ended and this chapter is closed for Libya and for all the world.”
Television pictures showed residents of Sirte celebrating on the streets following the reports of Qaddafi’s death and the fall of the coastal city to forces loyal to the country’s new leaders.
Information Minister Mahmoud Shamman said earlier Qaddafi was killed while trying to escape his hometown of Sirte.
International television stations broadcast what they said was footage of Qaddafi’s body being dragged on the ground.
Meanwhile, Libyan television showed images of troops surrounding two large drainage pipes where it said Qaddafi was found. It said he had died of wounds suffered during capture.
NTC commanders said the body of one of Qaddafi’s sons, Mutassim, was also found in Sirte.
NATO confirmed that it launched an air strike against a convoy trying to leave Sirte. But the alliance could not immediately confirm that Qaddafi had been killed.
NTC official Abdel Majid Mlegta later told Reuters that Qaddafi had died after being wounded in the legs and head.
The official said Qaddafi was trying to flee in a convoy, which NATO warplanes attacked.
But Reuters also quoted an anti-Qaddafi fighter as saying the deposed leader had been found hiding in a hole in the ground.
Broadcaster Al-Jazeera aired video footage showing a crowd dragging the dead body purportedly of Qaddafi.
An NTC official said the body was taken to a location which is being kept secret for security reasons, but Al-Jazeera said it was placed in a mosque in the city of Misurata, between Tripoli and Sirte.
NATO said its aircraft attacked two military vehicles near Sirte this morning, but it stopped short of confirming reports that these had been carrying Qaddafi.
The Associated Press reported that at least 16 Qaddafi loyalists had been captured, along with ammunition and trucks loaded with weapons.
The NTC has said that the fall of Sirte would be the point at which it would declare Libya liberated, triggering the formation of a new government within a month.
Libyan NTC fighters gather outside large concrete pipes where Muammar Qaddafi was allegedly captured in Sirte on October 20.
Qaddafi was ousted in August when rebel forces captured Tripoli, after ruling the country for 42 years.
His whereabouts had remained unknown, while several of his family members were in hiding or have fled the country.
Speaking with Western media in February, Qaddafi called rebels seeking to overturn his regime international terrorists.
“They love me. All my people [are] with me. They love me all,” he said. “They will die to protect me, my people.”
However Western leaders welcomed his death as the end of despotism, tyranny, dictatorship, and ultimately war in the North African country.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “we should remember the many Libyans who died at the hands of this brutal dictator” and that the people of Libya now had a greater chance of building a democratic future.
In a joint statement, European Union President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Qaddafi’s death would allow Libya to “embrace a new democratic future.”
EU spokesman Michael Mann told RFE/RL: “Colonel Qaddafi’s death brings closure to a tragic period in the lives of so many Libyan people. Libya is entering a process of transition. It’s important now that the leadership unites to provide a democratic future for the country in full respect for human rights. While of course the crimes of the past must be addressed, the leadership must also seek a path of reconciliation.”
In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said, “Now the war is over.”
And senior U.S. Senator John McCain said the Libyan people could now focus on “strengthening their national unity, rebuilding their country and economy, proceeding with their democratic transition, and safeguarding the dignity and human rights of all Libyans.”
Reports said Ahmed Ibrahim, reportedly one of the key commanders who led fighting against the anti-Qaddafi forces in Sirte, was also arrested in Sirte, while Moussa Ibrahim, former spokesman for Qaddafi’s fallen government, was captured near the city.
And the defense minister in Qaddafi’s ousted regime, Abu Bakr Yunis, was reportedly killed in the final battle for Sirte.