20 Oct 2011

How did Colonel Gaddafi die?

Libyans have been celebrating the demise of their former dictator, but the circumstances of his death remain confused. Video has emerged of Gaddafi alive after his capture near Sirte.

The footage, shown by a rebel tv station, appears to show Gaddafi, bloodied but upright, surrounded by rebel fighters with guns. This seems to contradict earlier account of his capture which said that he was killed in a gunfight with the rebels.

In a day of conflicting claims, the first reports this morning said Gaddafi had been arrested alive by rebels, unharmed and was then shot in the leg to prevent him making an escape – an account that seems to be at variance with the footage of his arrest that emerged later.

However this version was superceded by a report that Gaddafi had been injured in a Nato airstrike on two armoured vehicles. The French have since confirmed their involvement in such a strike.

Further reports told how Libya’s former leader had been found, injured, near a drainage tunnel where he had been sheltering. Rebels said they had sent him to hospital in an ambulance but he died on the way from his injuries.

In a television interview, one of the rebels involved in Colonel Gaddafi’s arrest described how they had been attacking the part of Sirte known as neighbourhood number two, in the east of the city, when they discovered Gaddafi hiding in the drainage tunnel.

At first they didn’t realise who they had stumbled across. But when they went to arrest him, his identity became clear. The rebel described the mortally injured Gaddafi pleading with them not to shoot. He too said the captive died en route to the hospital in Misrata.

Gaddafi’s sons

Also apparently killed today was Colonel Gadaffi’s son Mutassim. Although his death was announced by the rebel governor of Sirte, this was not confirmed in a national address made later by the interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril on Thursday.

The whereabouts of his western-educated son Saif, who featured in many news broadcasts at the beginning of the Nato campaign, has been a mystery for some time. Today a convoy including an armoured car made a break from the former rebel holdout of Bani Walid. Rebels say they engaged it in fierce fighting, believing Saif was in the armoured vehicle. Some unconfirmed reports have said that he has been killed or captured in the action.