Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s lifeless body was dragged through the streets of his hometown last night as rebels celebrated the death of the man who held Libya in his iron grasp for 42 years.
The dictator was killed during a bloody raid on the north-west town of Sirte. It is understood he was attempting to flee the town when French warplanes attacked his convoy, allowing rebel forces to move in.
The last hours of the man famed for his lavish meetings with world leaders are believed to have been spent cowering in a sewer outlet.
Reports suggest he was alive when captured but died in the crossfire during a gun battle between Gaddafi loyalists and his captors . Videos shot on mobile phones show footage of Gaddafi’s battered corpse before it was delivered to the rebel stronghold of Misrata as a “prize of war”.
Several of Gaddafi’s chief henchmen are also believed to have died during the attacks, although his heir-apparent son Saif al-Islam is thought to remain at large. Another of Gaddafi’s sons, Mo’tassim, died after being arrested.
Libyan prime minister Mahmoud Jibril confirmed Gaddafi’s death last night, saying: “All the evils, plus Gaddafi, have vanished from this beloved country. It’s time to start a new Libya, a united Libya. One people, one future.”
David Cameron, an early supporter of February’s NATO-backed revolt, said: “People in Libya today have an even greater chance after this news of building themselves a strong and democratic future.” US president Barack Obama told the Libyan people: “You have won your revolution.”
The new national flag, resurrected by rebels who forced Gaddafi from the capital Tripoli in August, filled streets and squares as jubilant crowds fired guns into the air. Some rebels were filmed posing with a golden gun believed to have been taken from Gaddafi.
After February’s uprising in the long discontented east of the country around Benghazi – inspired by the Arab Spring movements that overthrew the leaders of neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt – the revolt against Gaddafi spread slowly across the country before a dramatic turn saw Tripoli fall in August.
The subsequent two months, however, have tested the nerves of the alliance of anti-Gaddafi forces and their Western and Arab backers, who had begun to question the ability of the rebel forces to root out diehard Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte and other towns.
Gaddafi, who was wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of ordering the killing of civilians, was toppled a week short of the 42nd anniversary of the military coup that brought him to power in 1969.
Some crude oil prices dipped on the news, although the overall market was little affected. Nouri Berouin of Libya’s National Oil Company (NOC) said that production should increase as NOC could “now concentrate on rebuilding the sector”.