Friday, 21 October 2011

Gaddafi the final curtain

How they found the mad dog of Libya Muammar Gaddafi trapped like a rat up a drainpipe

Muammar Gaddafi
A Libyan National Transitional Council fighter stands outside the drain in Sirte where Muammar Gaddafi was captured. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

Several times over the past eight months, Muammar Gaddafi called those rising up against his Libyan dictatorship "rats". In the end, the 69-year-old tyrant, who amassed enormous wealth during his 42-year rule, died a rodent's death, a rat caught up a drainpipe.

Libyans were jubilant yesterday following confirmation that Gaddafi's place of birth, his key stronghold, had become his place of death. World leaders hailed his killing in Sirte, shortly before the death of his feared son Mutassim and the apparent capture of his most prominent son, Saif al-Islam. But Libya's interim rulers in the National Transitional Council were last night resisting calls to announce the liberation and move towards democracy.

Gaddafi's body was on display yesterday in the city of Misratah as the story of his death after the eight-month Arab Spring-inspired revolt emerged from a range of sources. After rebel fighters stormed Sirte on Thursday night they fanned out across the town.While his regime had collapsed, Sirte was always going to be Gaddafi's last stand. For all the bluster of Gaddafi and Saif, two things they said they obviously meant. Gaddafi always said he would fight to the end and never leave Libya. Saif said he, too, would fight to the death and blood would flow. At least one was right.

The ousted strongman's wife and two of his children had seen the writing on the wall weeks ago and fled to Algeria. Other members of the inner circle had escaped by convoy into Niger. But Gaddafi and Saif bunkered down. About 8.30am (5.30pm AEST) in Sirte, even Gaddafi had realised his time was up. With rebel fighters only four blocks away, he and his remaining 20 or so loyalists fled in a convoy of cars. It was the ultimate humiliation to have to run from his stronghold, but self-preservation took over.

NATO, however, had other ideas. In recent months, NATO jets have had an uncanny ability to strike key Gaddafi targets and personnel. Drawing on electronic and human intelligence provided by the US, Britain, France and Libyans on the ground, NATO has been tracking Gaddafi. In May NATO forces even knew he had gone to one of his son's houses in Tripoli - and bombed it while he was there. On Thursday, it appears they knew this sudden convoy was the big prize. They struck. A French jet locked on to the convoy and fired. It did not kill Gaddafi, but its missiles obviously hit close enough for the former leader and his loyalists to panic.

They stopped and ran, apparently in different directions. Gaddafi ran for a drain. What happened next replicated a pattern over recent months - a NATO strike followed by rebel ground forces. Rebel fighters often move in after a NATO bombing - it means Gaddafi forces are probably dead or fleeing. The rebels headed towards the scene of the airstrike. They detained four Gaddafi men, who, it seems to save themselves, pointed to their leader's drainpipe. They pulled Gaddafi out. Word went out quickly and a frenzy developed. The horrible scenes that followed have been captured by mobile phones.

The pictures show him being rushed through the streets - bloodied, distressed, terrified, but alive. He can be seen wiping blood from his face. You can hear shouting. It's a frenzy. Then you see a gun put to his head. One moment he is alive, the next he is dead. What Gaddafi had done to thousands of others over the past 42 years had been done to him. Justice, Gaddafi-style. But the rebels who have become the new government in the form of the National Transitional Council always argued they were better than Gaddafi. They came to power criticising Gaddafi for brutality and lying. Now it seems they have done both. The NTC's Mahmoud Jibril claimed Gaddafi "was shot in the head in crossfire".

It appears the truth is different: he was executed by a lynch mob of rebels. The rebels' military spokesman, Ahmed Bani, says the most important thing is that Gaddafi was killed. "How is not important," he said. UN human rights chief Navi Pillay called for an investigation."On the issue of Gaddafi's death yesterday, the circumstances are still unclear," her spokesman Rupert Colville said. "There should be some kind of investigation, given what we saw yesterday."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain did not approve of "extrajudicial killing", but the country would not mourn Gaddafi, whom it held responsible for ordering the 1988 Lockerbie bombing as well as arming the Irish Republican Army. Meanwhile, Mutassim was also captured in Sirte. He was photographed lying in a prison - alive.Then he was dead. The NTC says Mutassim "was found dead in Sirte".That sounds better than being shot in cold blood. The place where Gaddafi was found became a shrine of sorts. "This is the place where the rat was hiding," someone wrote. The revolution was complete.

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