October 20, 2011 23:53
Senior Libyan provisional government officials say former leader Moammar Gadhafi has been killed by government troops who crushed remaining resistance by Gadhafi loyalists in his hometown of Sirte.
Several National Transitional Council officials in Tripoli say NTC forces shot and killed Gadhafi and took custody of his body Thursday, during a final assault on his loyalists in Sirte. The circumstances of the shooting were not clear. Images of a bloodied corpse that resembled Gadhafi were broadcast on global television networks.
Libya's NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil Is expected to address the nation soon. NATO has not confirmed Gadhafi's death but says its warplanes attacked two vehicles of pro-Gadhafi forces that were maneuvering around Sirte on Thursday. The United States also said it could not confirm the former Libyan leader's death.
NTC officials have said they will declare the country liberated after Sirte is fully under their control. Sirte, a coastal town 360 kilometers east of Tripoli, was the last stronghold of Gadhafi loyalists after provisional fighters captured the desert town of Bani Walid earlier this week. NTC fighters in Sirte fired celebratory shots into the air and hoisted the new national flag in the city Thursday.
The capture of Sirte comes near two months after forces loyal to the NTC took control of the capital Tripoli, forcing leader Gadhafi and his family to flee. His son Muatassim is believed to have been among those fighting in Sirte, where NTC fighters conducted a house to house search of the last areas of resistance.
The declaration of victory in Sirte is expected to set in motion a series of political moves leading to elections, a new government and a new constitution -- a massive undertaking country that has had 40 years of arbitrary, one-man rule.
The capture follows NTC success in another pro-Gadhafi bastion, Bani Walid, earlier this week. Fighting still continues in southern areas of the country, the vast desert regions bordering Niger, Algeria and Chad. But control of Gadhafi's hometown provides a geographic as well as symbolic victory, uniting the main population corridor along the coast from east to west.
Libya scholar Ziad Akl of the Ahram Center in Cairo says Gadhafi forces are in a struggle for survival.
"The forces that are pro-Gadhafi, first of all, they are not politically organized, they are not strategically outlined, and they are not fighting actually to gain ground," said Akl. "They are simply trying to defend the positions they have and stop the revolution from moving on and this is a time- constrained battle."
If that is the case, a major portion of that battle ended Thursday.
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