Libyan provisional government officials say ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi will be buried Tuesday in an unmarked grave in a secret desert location, ending a growing controversy over his decomposing corpse.
The officials said the bodies of Gadhafi, his slain son Mutassim and former Defense Minister Abu Bakr Younis will be buried together in the same ceremony. They said Muslim sheikhs will attend the burial.
Gadhafi’s body has been on public display since Friday in a commercial refrigerator in the port city of Misrata, where residents had lined up to see it.
The Associated Press said its reporters saw three vehicles leave the warehouse area late Monday. The reporting team then entered the freezer and found it empty.
Earlier Monday, National Transitional Council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil said he hopes that talks to form a new interim government will end in about two weeks. He also attempted to reassure Western powers that Libya’s new leaders are “moderate Muslims.”
On Sunday, Mr. Jalil said Islamic Sharia law will be the main source of legislation for Libya, that laws contradicting its tenets will be nullified, and that polygamy will be legalized.
A French foreign ministry spokesman played down the comments. Bernard Valero expressed confidence that the Libyan people “will build a lawful state in conformity with the principles and universal values shared by the international community.”
Mr. Jalil also said the NTC has ordered an investigation into Gadhafi’s death, after the U.S. government, rights groups and others called for the probe.
Libyan doctors performed an autopsy on Gadhafi’s body in the city of Misrata Sunday and said he died of gunshot wounds to the head and abdomen during last week’s takeover of Sirte. Cellphone video shows provisional government fighters taunting and beating a wounded Gadhafi shortly before he died.
Libyan officials said the former leader was shot in a crossfire between his loyalists and provisional government forces. Fighters on the scene have acknowledged beating the ousted leader after his capture.
Meanwhile, a human rights group is asking Libya’s new authorities to investigate a possible mass execution of suspected Gadhafi supporters during the battle for Sirte.
Human Rights Watch says it found the bodies of 53 people who appear to have been executed in an area that was controlled by NTC fighters at the apparent time of the deaths about a week earlier.
The group said the bloodstains on the grass, the bullet holes on the ground and the bullet casings scattered around the site suggest that executioners killed some, if not all, of the people at that location, an abandoned hotel.
Sirte residents preparing the bodies for burial said most of the victims were local people and some were Gadhafi supporters.