Correspondents* – IPS/Al Jazeera
HAVANA TIMES, Oct 20 (IPS) — Muammar Gaddafi has been killed after National Transitional Council fighters overran loyalist defenses in Sirte, the toppled Libyan leader’s hometown and final stronghold.
“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Gaddafi has been killed,” Mahmoud Jibril, the de facto Libyan prime minister, told reporters on Thursday in Tripoli, the capital.
Crowds took to the streets of Tripoli and Benghazi, the eastern city that spearheaded the uprising against Gaddafi’s 42-year rule in February, to celebrate the news, with some firing guns and waving Libya’s new flag.
Abdul Hakim Belhaj, an NTC military chief, said Gaddafi had died of his wounds after being captured on Thursday.
The body of the former Libyan leader was taken to a location which is being kept secret for security reasons, Mohamed Abdel Kafi, an NTC official in the city of Misrata, told the Reuters news agency.
Earlier, Abdel Majid, another NTC official, said the toppled leader had been wounded in both legs.
The news came shortly after the NTC captured Sirte after weeks of fierce fighting.
“Thank God they have caught this person. In one hour, Sirte was liberated,” a fighter in the town said.
Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley, reporting from Sirte, said Libyans there celebrating the beginning of a “new Libya”.
“This is bringing a form of closure,” he said. “Gaddafi stayed true to his words that he would stay in Libya till the end.
“It was surprising to many that he did actually stay here in Sirte – it’s taken such a bombardment in the last 13 days. Nothing could survive in here for very long. I think they were starved of food, starved of ammunition, and finally there was nothing to do but to run”.
In Tripoli, Jibril said he had received unconfirmed reports that Gaddafi’s most prominent son, Saif al-Islam, was in a convoy fleeing Sirte.
Meanwhile, there were conflicting reports about the fate of one of his sons, Mutassim Gaddafi.
Reuters reported that one of the news agency’s sources had seen video of Mutassim lying on a bed and covered in blood, but alive.
Mahmoud Shammam, the NTC’s information minister, said he had received reports that Mutassim had been captured alive in Sirte, but could not confirm the news.
However, Mohamed Leith, an NTC commander, told the AFP news agency that Mutassim had been killed.
“We found him dead. We put his body and that of (former defense minister) Abu Bakr Younus in an ambulance to take them to Misrata”.
Footage had emerged earlier in the day of the body of Younus.
Abdul Hakim Al Jalil, commander of the NTC’s 11th brigade, said that Moussa Ibrahim, the former spokesman for Gaddafi’s fallen government, had been captured near Sirte.
* Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.