Photo by Ahmed Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: The Associated Press reports that Muammar Qaddafi's corpse is being kept in a commercial freezer in a shopping center in the city of Misrata.
It is being kept there while Libyan leaders figure out where and when to bury the former dictator.
An AP correspondent was given a look at the blood-streaked corpse: "The body, stripped to the waist and wearing beige trousers, was laid on a bloodied mattress on the floor of an emptied-out room-sized freezer where restaurants and stores in the center normally keep perishables."
UPDATE Friday 9:39 a.m.: The burial of Muammar Qaddafi’s body has been delayed to allow for a further investigation into how the deposed Libyan leader was killed, and to give officials more time to figure out where they should bury the body, Libya’s interim government said Friday.
The Associated Press reports that National Transitional Council leaders had originally said that they would bury Qaddafi on Friday in accordance with Islamic traditions, although those plans are now on hold after the U.N. human rights office called for an investigation into the circumstances of the 69-year-old’s death.
A spokesman for the U.N. panel set up earlier this year to investigate abuses in Libya said it wanted to take a closer look at how Qaddafi was killed, but that it was too early to tell if the panel would push for a formal investigation at the national or international level.
The spokesman, Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva that there remain questions about whether Qaddafi was killed during a skirmish between his security detail and the revolutionaries, as Libya’s prime minister suggested Thursday, or whether he was executed.
“The two cell phone videos that have emerged, one of him alive, and one of him dead, taken together are very disturbing," he said, according to the AP.
UPDATE Thursday 6:16 p.m.: Muammar Qaddafi was shot in the head during "intense crossfire" between revolutionaries and his own security detail, Libya's prime minister said Thursday.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril pushed back against unconfirmed reports that Qaddafi had been executed at the hands of the revolutionaries after he was captured alive.
Jibril told the paper that Qaddafi was discovered hiding in "a big pipe of the sewage system" in Sirte on Thursday morning. He was armed but did not resist arrest. It was only when Qaddafi was being escorted to a truck that a firefight broke out, during which the former Libyan strongman was shot in the head. "That was the deadly shot," Jibril said.
The prime minister continued: "I cannot confirm whether he was shot by our people or his security brigade. It was crossfire." Qaddafi reportedly died within walking distance of a nearby hospital.
Jibril's comments contradicted previous unconfirmed reports that Qaddafi was executed by revolutionary soldiers. One report suggested that Qaddafi was killed by a man in his 20s who used the former leader's golden handgun to deliver the fatal shot.
Those reports appeared to be grounded in speculation that arose after a number of graphic images surfaced that made it clear that Qaddafi was alive when he was first captured by the revolutionaries. The New York Times has a quick rundown of the digital clips:
Al Jazeera television showed footage of Colonel Qaddafi, alive but bloody, as he was dragged around by armed men in [Sirte]. The television also broadcast a separate clip of his half-naked torso, with eyes staring vacantly and an apparent gunshot wound to the head, as jubilant fighters fired automatic weapons in the air. A third video, posted on Youtube, showed excited fighters hovering around his lifeless-looking body, posing for photographs and yanking his limp head up and down by the hair.
The prime minister also confirmed that one of Qaddafi's sons, Mutassim, was killed in a separate firefight in another part of the city. Saif al-Islam, Qaddafi's most infamous son and right-hand man, managed to escape and remains at large, Jibril said.
Meanwhile, NATO elaborated on the role that its warplanes played in the attack on Qaddafi's convoy that preceded his death. Officials said that French fighter jets and a U.S. drone fired on the disorganized convoy as it was leaving Sirte, the Post reports. Officials stressed, however, that it was unclear if the airstrikes hit the vehicle carrying Qaddafi.
UPDATE at 2:30 p.m.: President Obama made a short statement about Muammar Qaddafi's death, saying that Thursday was a "momentous day in the history of Libya" and pledging that the U.S. will support the nation as it embraces democracy.
It's noteworthy that the president avoided giving independent confirmation of the death of the former Libyan strongman, saying only that Libya's interim government had informed the U.S. that Qaddafi had been killed. Still, the president left little doubt that the administration believes that the reports are accurate.
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Obama said that the Qaddafi regime "has come to an end" and that "one of the world's longest-serving dictators is no more."
"Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights," the president continued. "Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship. And those leaders who try to deny their human dignity will not succeed."
Meanwhile, Libyan officials are reporting that one of Qaddafi's sons, Mutassim Qaddafi, was found dead in Sirte along with several other loyalists.
POST Thursday, Oct. 20: Muammar Qaddafi is dead, Libya’s interim government announced Thursday.
“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time: Muammar Qaddafi has been killed,” Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said at a Tripoli news conference, confirming earlier reports of the former Libyan strongman's demise.
Qaddafi is said to have died of wounds suffered during his capture near his hometown of Sirte, his final remaining stronghold in the nation that he ruled with an iron fist for more than four decades.
News of Qaddafi’s death first began to trickle in earlier Thursday, with conflicting reports surfacing about whether Libya’s former leader had been killed or merely captured. It was not immediately clear exactly when Qaddafi’s injuries occurred, and what role NATO played in the attack that appears to have led to his death.
One NTC official, Abdel Majid Mlegta, told Reuters that Qaddafi had been wounded in both legs as he attempted to flee Sirte in a convoy that had been attacked at dawn by NATO warplanes. "There was a lot of firing against his group and he died," Mlegta told Reuters.
A second NTC official, Abdel Kahim Bihajj, announced the news of Qaddafi’s death live on Al-Jazeera Arabic television on Thursday, CNN reports.
Qaddafi’s apparent death made headlines across the world, but Western media outlets were initially quick to caution that they had yet to independently confirmed either Qaddafi’s death or capture, but the coverage's tone later changed as additional reporting continued to roll in. A number of television outlets broadcast grainy digital video of what appeared to be Qaddafi’s bloodied body, although it remains unclear if the footage was legitimate. Asked if there is photographic evidence to prove that Qaddafi is indeed dead, Mlegta told Reuters: “We have the footage but it is not available now.”
World leaders were cautious, speaking mostly in hypotheticals. The White House and the State Department have not yet confirmed the news, although Libyan officials have said they have alerted the Obama administration that Qaddafi is dead. Speaking in New Hampshire after the news broke, Vice President Joe Biden stopped short of confirming Qaddafi's death. President Obama was set to deliver remarks in the Rose Garden later in the day. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Qaddafi's capture or death would “add legitimacy and relief to the formation of a new government” in Libya.
News of Qaddafi’s death ignited celebrations in Libya, where people took to the streets en mass in the nation's capital of Tripoli to celebrate.
According to the unconfirmed reports from Libyan television, Qaddafi was found by NTC soldiers hiding in one of two large drainage pipes under a highway, where he had apparently taken shelter. It is unclear if he was armed at the time of his capture.
Qaddafi’s death would bring an end to a multiweek man-hunt for the colonel. More importantly, it would also likely signal an end to months of fighting between the revolutionaries who waged a civil war to overthrow the nation’s longtime ruler and pro-Qaddafi loyalists who battled to protect the status quo.
Rebels stormed Qaddafi’s fortified compound in Tripoli at the end of August hoping to find the embattled Libyan strongman there, but it remains unclear if he was ever present when that siege began. Shortly after he lost control of Tripoli, Qaddafi released a series of radio broadcasts urging his supporters to fight on and promising either “martyrdom or victory.”