22 Oct 2011

Libya poised for declaration of liberation

Gaddafi’s body is reportedly set to be handed over to relatives as Libya looks forward to its first elections for more than 40 years.


Libya’s interim government is poised to formally declare “liberation” from the rule of Colonel Gaddafi following the dictator’s death.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, is expected to announce the end of the war that ousted Gaddafi in the the eastern city of Benghazi on Sunday.

Libya’s interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril said he was resigning on Saturday and urged new leaders to seize a “very limited opportunity” to resolve rivalries now surfacing after Gaddafi’s death.

He warned Libyans to avoid in-fighting if Libyans were to keep to a plan to hold their first free election next year.

In Misrata, people have been filing through a market cold store to view the body of Gaddafi, whose surprise capture and killing in his hometown of Sirte sparked widespread celebration.

Visitors wore surgical masks against the stench, an image that may trouble some Muslims, for whom swift burial is a holy duty – even if few Libyans share the unease among their Western allies over what some believe was a summary execution.

Reports emerged on Saturday that the bodies of the dictator and his son Mutassim will be handed over to relatives for burial soon.

Nato is set to call off its campaign against the forces of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi at the end of the month following the Libyan dictator’s death.

The alliance’s secretary-general said military operations will begin to wind down following the fall of Gaddafi’s final stronghold in Sirte earlier this week.

Anders Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “We have taken a preliminary decision to end Operation Unified Protector on October 31. We will take a formal decision early next week.”

Air patrols are set to continue over Libya during over the next ten days as a “precautionary measure” to ensure the stability of the new regime, he added.

But they will be gradually stepped down in coming days if there are no further outbreaks of fighting with pro-Gaddafi forces.

Mr Rasmussen said Nato had no intention of leaving any residual force in or near Libya, adding: “We expect to close down the operation.”

He said it was up to the north African country’s National Transitional Council (NTC) government to decide whether to investigate the circumstances surrounding Gaddafi’s violent death.

US officials have confirmed that an American Predator drone took part in the air strikes that hit Gaddafi’s convoy as he attempted to flee from Sirte on Thursday, although it is still unclear how the ousted dictator got his fatal wounds.

Gaddafi was wounded when revolutionary fighters captured him, and later died. He had gunshot wounds to his head, chest and stomach.

NTC officials have said the Libyan leader died in “crossfire”, but mobile phone footage appeared to show him being captured alive, raising the possibility that he was executed.

Mr Rasmussen said: “With regards to Gaddafi, I would expect the new authorities in Libya to live up fully to the basic principles of rule of law and human rights, including full transparency.”

The United Nations and human rights groups have called for a full investigation and voiced concerns that he may have been executed, a war crime under international law.