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What Killed Gadhafi: Firefight Wounds or Execution?

October 20, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: Revolutionary forces killed Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi today and overwhelmed his hometown of Sirte, the last major bastion of resistance. The 69-year-old dictator had been a hunted man after fighting began in February and the fall of Tripoli in August. He is the first leader to be killed in the Arab spring uprisings.

We begin our coverage tonight with a report narrated by Alex Thomson of Independent Television News.

A warning: There are some graphic images in this story.

ALEX THOMSON: Celebrations in Sirte and across Libya. The Libyan revolution of 2011 was about one thing above all else, removing Colonel Gadhafi from power. Today concludes that revolution.

But, tonight, confusion about how he died — this appears to be what happened. Shortly after 8:00 a.m., a NATO airstrike hit two vehicles outside Sirte. Colonel Gadhafi took cover in this land drain. The presence of a body indicates a firefight.

Then video released appears to prove he was taken alive, on a main road. The location is rural, not built-up. They scream, “Allahu akbar,” “God is great.” One key question tonight, although wounded, did Moammar Gadhafi die from wounds received before he was taken alive or was he executed after these images were filmed?

Few celebrating Libyans will care very much. Viewers should be warned that, in a moment, we will be showing some of the disturbing images today as fighters filmed on their mobile phones what appears to be Colonel Gadhafi’s dead body. Many Libyans, though, say they need to see that he is, in fact, dead.

His body turned over in the street, the crowd chaotic, almost hysterical, firing guns in celebration. There’s much more of that best left unshown.

In Tripoli, from the chairman of the interim government, the simple statement: Moammar Gadhafi has been killed.


MAHMOUD JIBRIL, Libyan National Transitional Council: I think it’s for the Libyans to realize that this is a time to start a new Libya, with a new economy, with a new education, and with a new health system, with a new look to the future, a united Libya, one people and one future.

ALEX THOMSON: Let the final word tonight be with the revolution’s military commander in Tripoli, once tortured by the British, a man of experience and memory. Mark his words.

ABDEL HAKIM BELHADJ, military council (through translator): With this news, we have done a great job to liberate all the country. And Libya is now facing a big challenge, to rebuild a new Libya.