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‘However Joyous,’ New Libya Faces Rivalries, Problems to Come

October 20, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
The mood in Tripoli Thursday night was joyful with people honking horns and shooting off celebratory gunfire after the death of Moammar Gadhafi and the fall of the loyalist stronghold of Sirte, according to Independent Television News' Lindsey Hilsum. Jeffrey Brown discusses the future of the new Libya with Hilsum.
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JEFFREY BROWN: Libya’s interim leaders announced that one of Gadhafi’s sons, his former national security adviser, Mutassim, was also killed in Sirte. A second son, and heir apparent, Saif al-Islam, was wounded and captured.

For more on today’s developments, I spoke this afternoon to ITN’s Lindsey Hilsum in Tripoli.

Lindsey, thanks for joining us.

So, in the end, were people there surprised that Gadhafi was still in Sirte and surprised by how this all ended?

LINDSEY HILSUM, ITN: I think people were surprised, although the acting prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, said that they knew for the last week that Colonel Gadhafi had been on the move. They thought that he had been in Algeria at one point, and then he had gone back to the place where he was born.

And, of course, what people are saying is that is where he was born; that was where he had to die. But people who I spoke to earlier in the day, they just didn’t believe it was true initially. They wouldn’t believe it until they saw a picture. Once they saw the picture of Colonel Gadhafi that was the moment when they said yes, it’s over. After 42 years, he’s really dead.

And although some certainly in the west will be saying this was an extrajudicial killing, this was the wrong way of doing it, Libyans who I have been speaking to are saying, he’s gone. That’s the most important thing for them.

JEFFREY BROWN: And what of that question of how exactly he died? Do you have any more information on the precise sequence of events?

LINDSEY HILSUM: What we understand is this, that early in the morning around 8:30 a.m., there was a NATO strike on a convoy.

We think that Colonel Gadhafi and possibly two of his sons, Mutassim and Saif, were in that convoy. Colonel Gadhafi, we think, was injured, and he stumbled out, surrounded by some of his guards. And he found shelter in these big drainage pipes. That was where he was when fighters found him. He was dragged out, and he was at this point alive. He was injured, however.

What we think happened then was that he was kicked and treated as you might expect him to be treated by the fighters who hated him so much. And then an 18-year-old fighter is saying that he shot him.

Now, what the National Transitional Council is saying that, until an investigation is done, they can’t confirm this. And I think that people are saying that he died of his wounds. A doctor is saying he died of wounds to the head and the chest. It looks as if he was shot after being injured. But we can’t confirm that yet.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, you’re in Tripoli tonight. What is the mood there?

LINDSEY HILSUM: Joyful.

There are honking horns. There is some celebratory gunfire, although the authorities here are trying to stop people doing that because it’s very dangerous. Even the ships in the harbor have been sounding their sirens. And at the mosques there, they are playing out the (INAUDIBLE).

People are shouting, “Allahu akbar.” Some of the people I have been speaking to say, we wish he had been taken alive. One man I spoke to said, I wanted to see him in a cage. I wanted to see him admitting to his crimes, because I wanted him to have to stand there and be told about all the suffering of the Libyan people over the last 42 years.

Mahmoud Jibril, who is the acting prime minister, said, you know, in some ways, I wish that he could have gone on trial and I wish that I had been the attorney general for that. But then he also said, I just want him to vanish, to disappear.

I think that many Libyans are actually relieved that he is dead. What they are thinking about now is the new Libya. They have to start from scratch. They have to build a new country.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, indeed, Mr. Jibril did speak today of starting that new Libya, as he called it. But what does that mean? What is the transitional government saying about its immediate next steps?

LINDSEY HILSUM: Well, the first thing is that I think later tonight, or more likely tomorrow, they will declare the liberation of all of Libya, because as well as Colonel Gadhafi being killed, they have now got control of Sirte, which was the last stronghold.

And after that, there is supposed to be a pathway towards democracy. They are talking about elections in eight months’ time. Now, some people say how can they possibly have elections so soon? Because, really, we’re talking about a country which has no institutions, no state.

The state was Gadhafi. Every decision was made by him. Every other institution that there might have been, he destroyed it. It was just him and his family. But they do also have problems, because however joyous people are today, there are divisions in this country. There are many different towns.

And some say that Colonel Gadhafi was the one who sowed the divisions between the different towns, but all those different towns are saying, well, we’re the ones who did it. We are the ones who are the bravest fighters. We are the ones who take the credit for overthrowing Gadhafi. We are the ones who should have the greatest share of power.

So I think that there are problems to come. And there are certainly rivalries, which we’re already seeing springing up in this new Libya.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Lindsey Hilsum in Tripoli, thanks so much.

LINDSEY HILSUM: You’re welcome.