Bloodied, wearing just a pair of khaki trousers, and dumped on a cheap mattress, Muammar Gaddafi’s body has become a gruesome tourist attraction and a macabre symbol of the new Libya’s problems.
Hundreds of ordinary Libyans queued up outside a refrigerated meat store in Misrata, where the dead dictator was being stored as a trophy. A guard allowed small groups into the room to celebrate next to Gaddafi’s body. They posed for photos, flashing victory signs, and burst into jubilant cries of “God is great.”
Wounds on Gaddafi’s body appeared to confirm that he was indeed killed in cold blood in the chaotic minutes following his capture on Thursday. He was found in the town of Sirte, hiding in a drainage pipe. There was a close-range bullet wound on the left side of his head. Blood stains showed another bullet wound to his thorax. His body, subsequently driven to Misrata and publicly paraded, was barefoot and stripped to the waist.
Late on Friday the Gaddafi clan demanded a chance to bury the body. In a statement on a Syria-based pro-Gaddafi television station, the ousted dictator’s family asked for the bodies of Gaddafi, his son Mo’tassim and others who were killed on Thursday by fighters who overran his hometown Sirte.
What to do with the fallen dictator’s corpse is the subject of a row inside the National Transitional Council (NTC). Libya’s interim prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, arrived in Misrata to talk with local NTC representatives. They have made it abundantly clear they do not want Gaddafi to be buried in their town. The NTC leadership in Tripoli wants a solution quickly. One popular option is to bury him at sea, like Osama bin Laden.
The dispute threatens to overshadow NTC plans to declare a formal end to Libya’s nine-month uprising . The council will announce from Benghazi, where the Libyan revolution began in February, that the project of national liberation is now complete. It will say a new, democratic post-Gaddafi era has begun.
The NTC faces questions from international rights organisations. On Thursday, Jibril claimed that Gaddafi had been killed from a bullet to the head received in crossfire between rebel fighters and his supporters. He was dragged alive on to a truck, but died “when the car was moving”, Jibril said, citing forensic reports.
Gruesome mobile phone footage obtained by the Global Post undermines this account. It records the minutes after Gaddafi’s capture, when his convoy came under Nato and rebel attack. He is dragged out of a tunnel where he had been hiding. Blood is already pouring out of a wound on the left side of his head.
A group of fighters then frogmarch him towards a pick-up truck. There are shouts of “God is great” and the rattle of gunfire. At one point Gaddafi keels over; a fighter kicks him and scuffs dirt over his bloodstained clothing. The rebels prop Gaddafi back on his feet and propel him onwards.
Gaddafi is clearly dazed and wounded – but is alive, conscious, and pleading feebly with his captors. Fighters at the scene said that he was injured in the shoulder and leg when he was found. Fresh blood is also flowing from a head injury.
The evidence has prompted Amnesty International to call on the NTC to investigate. It said that if Gaddafi were deliberately killed, this would be a war crime. The NTC’s position is that it will support an investigation because the new Libya is a law-abiding country, but officials seemed sceptical that it was necessary. “Even if he was killed intentionally, I think he deserves this,” Mohammed Sayeh, a senior official, told the BBC. “If they kill him 1,000 times, I think it will not pay back the Libyans what he has done.”
Amnesty also called for an investigation into the unexplained, violent death of Gaddafi’s son Mutassim. Video footage that surfaced shows him calmly smoking a cigarette after his capture. Soon afterwards, someone appears to have shot him. His body is now on show in another freezer unit in Misrata, The Guardian reported.