Saturday, October 22, 2011
Gadhafi & the Boy With the Golden Gun
Citizens Celebrate Fall of Sirte and Capture and Death of Gadhafi at Martyr's Square Tripoli
The Boy With the Gadhafi's Golden Gun
By Ben Farmer, Sirte
8:23PM BST 22 Oct 2011
Utterly ravaged by months of bombardments, Sirte was a skeleton of a city – a place without food, water or light; a city without citizens. Its streets were turned into rivers by burst pipes, as fighters battled through waist-high swathes of mud brown water, street by bloody street.
But as the sun rose over the shell of Sirte on Thursday, it was immediately apparent that something had changed.
urb of Zafran in anticipation of another massed assault into District Two – the final pocket where Gaddafi loyalists had been holding out. Rebels from Misurata had told me the day before to be ready early to witness a home-made armoured battering ram, and their few tanks spearhead what they boasted would be a decisive thrust into the remaining bastion of defenders.
Little did we know, at that point, that Gaddafi had also decided that it was time for the endgame.
The embattled leader had been forced to retreat to an area 1000 yards by 500 yards, and was desperately moving from house to house, trying to evade capture.
Seeing the noose tighten to strangulation point, he had ordered his men on Wednesday night to pack a convoy of 75 vehicles in preparation for a move towards Wadi Jarif, 25 miles away.
"We decided to leave Sirte and go to Jarif because it had become unsafe," said Mansour Daou, Gaddafi's cousin and bodyguard. The Colonel, he said, was "tense, but not afraid".
But Gaddafi, like us, was unaware of the chain reaction which he had sparked by making that dash for freedom.
More than 6,000 miles away, deep in the lunar landscape of the Nevada desert, American specialists trained to their computer screens spotted unusual activity at around 7.30am in District Two. From their windowless bunker, lit by constantly flickering computer screens, the analysts directed their unmanned Predator drones to zoom in on the convoy as it picked up speed and headed west. Nato's eyes were suddenly trained on Gaddafi's convoy.
Yet at that moment, I was ignorant of that, and caught up in the midst of a chaotic scene at the crossroads by a scarred television station building, which was the planned launch point for the offensive into District Two.
The battle was taking an unexpected turn. At 8am the air was thick with the crackle of bullets and shots were hitting the street corner – from directions which had been cleared of loyalists for days. In the street beside the TV station – which should have been protected from loyalist marksmen toward the east – fighters were running bent double and crouching in the doorways of burnt-out houses as they tried to assess who was shooting at them.
"The plan has changed. Some loyalists have broken out overnight," one young fighter told me hurriedly.
"They have got around the back of us."
Unknown to us then – and what would not become clear for hours afterwards – was that among those who had broken out a few hundred yards from us was none other than Col Muammar Gaddafi. The confusion I was witnessing was not another small skirmish, but the final chaotic moments of the Libyan despot's rule.
He and his inner circle had tried to punch westward out of the shattered city into open countryside in a column of vehicles.
But it was a gamble that ultimately would not allow him to escape the fate suffered by so many of his opponents during his 42 years of rule.
High above Sirte the heavily-armed American USMQ1 Predator drones, which are piloted by satellite link and can provide surveillance or fire missiles in all weather, day and night, had been circling.
The aircraft, which can remain "on station" for up to 18 hours, were being remotely flown from Creech air force base in Nevada. One of the predator pilots had now received permission to attack the fleeing convoy.
Around 40 miles off the Libyan coast a Nato AWAC early-warning surveillance aircraft, flying over the Mediterranean, took control of the battle and warned two French jets that a loyalist convoy was attempting to leave Sirte.
As the convoy sped west, a Hellfire missile was fired from the Predator and destroyed the first vehicle in the convoy.
By now, the NTC troops had realised that the loyalists were escaping and a small number of lightly armed rebels began to give chase.
To me it seemed like a wild, chaotic situation. But we now know that it had, in fact, been foreseen by the British SAS and their special forces allies, who were advising the NTC forces.
British military sources have told The Sunday Telegraph that small teams of SAS soldiers on the ground in Sirte, armed but under strict orders not to get involved, had warned them throughout the siege to be alert to the fleeing of loyalists.
Assisted by other special forces – in particular the Qataris, with whom the SAS have a long relationship dating back 20 years – the SAS tried to impress on the Libyans the need to cover all escape routes.
But despite the advice, the breakout seems to have taken the rebels on the Zafran front completely by surprise.
In the previous two weeks I had repeatedly seen the militiamen fail to hold forward positions at night as they fell back to their encampments. Again and again loyalists had used cover of darkness to surprise the militiamen and manoeuvre into new firing positions.
Once more their surveillance was lax, and one rebel fighter confessed to me that in the early hours of Thursday they had failed to keep proper watch on the western front and they were surprised by the convoy.
A Gaddafi loyalist, Jibril Abu Shnaf, who had travelled in the convoy and was later captured, told how they took advantage of this lack of co-ordination.
"I was cooking for the other guys, when all of a sudden they came in and said: 'Come on, we're leaving,'" he explained.
"I got in a civilian car and joined the end of the convoy. We tried to escape along the coast road. But we came under heavy fire, so we tried another way."
The second attempt proved successful and the convoy left the demolished houses of Sirte, firing at rebel positions as it sped into the surrounding farmland.
A senior defence source has told The Sunday Telegraph that at this point the SAS urged the NTC leaders to move their troops to exits points across the city and close their stranglehold.
After the Hellfire missile struck its target, the convoy changed direction, possibly hoping to avoid a further strike, before heading west again. It had begun to fracture into several different groups of vehicles.
The French jets were also given permission to join the attack.
By now a group of 20 vehicles in the convoy had reached a point around three miles west of the city. The shattered streets had been left behind, and the convoy had halted next to a walled electricity sub station, in arid farmland dotted with breeze block compounds and trees.
Just then, the French pilot began his bombing run, seconds later releasing two 500lb GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, into the centre of the convoy.
The bombs unleashed massive force. Arriving at the site, a few hours later, their devastating power was clear to see: at least a dozen vehicles were shredded and burned out, while I counted more than 25 bodies, some lying twisted and charred inside the vehicles and others lying in clumps nearby.
The air strike marked the end of any attempt at an ordered retreat and the convoy's remnants scattered.
Mansour Daou, leader of Gaddafi's personal bodyguards, recounted the attack. He said that the survivors had "split into groups and each group went its own way".
The stragglers disappeared into the farmland, some taking refuge in buildings and others continuing to fire on approaching rebels and adding to the confusion.
Col Gaddafi had survived the air strike, but was apparently wounded in the legs. With his companions dead or dispersed, he now had few options.
He and a handful of men, perhaps including the defence minister Abu Bakr Younis, appeared to have made their way 300 yards north from the devastation and taken shelter in a drainage culvert running under a dual carriageway.
Here in concrete pipes just three feet across the final scene would be played out.
Members of the Al Watan revolutionary brigade who had been following the convoy at a distance witnessed the explosion, but at that point still had no idea who was in the vehicles.
Saleem Bakeer, a rebel fighter who said he was among those who came across Gaddafi hiding in the pipes said they had approached on foot.
"One of Gaddafi's men came out waving his rifle in the air and shouting surrender, but as soon as he saw my face he started shooting at me," he said.
"Then I think Gaddafi must have told them to stop. 'My master is here, my master is here', he said, 'Muammar Gaddafi is here and he is wounded'."
"We went in and brought Gaddafi out. He was saying: 'What's wrong? What's wrong? What's going on?'"
The initial astonishment appears to have quickly switched to jubilation, and then rage.
"I don't think that anyone thought he would be there, we all thought that he would be in the south, or maybe across in Niger or Algeria. We were as shocked as he was at first," said Abdullah Hakim Husseini, one of the band of men who found him. "We were so happy when we knew it was him. I thought, 'at last, it's all over'."
Mobile phone footage shows Col Gaddafi alive but weak and bloodied, with blows raining down on him from frenzied fighters. At one point he was hauled onto the bonnet of a pickup truck, then pulled down by his hair. His weighty golden gun, intricately engraved and decorated with the words "The sun will never set on the Al Fattah revolution", was snatched by one of the revolutionaries. His satellite phone was seized, and it was later discovered that he had made one last call to Syria.
Omran el Oweyb, the commander who captured Gaddafi, said that he only managed to stagger ten steps before he fell to the ground.
One rebel was heard screaming in his face: "This is for Misurata, you dog."
Gaddafi – confused, bloodied, stumbling – can be heard to reply, in what could be his last, laughably philosophical words: "Do you know right from wrong?"
What happened in the next minutes is the subject of intense controversy. Sometime in the next hours or minutes he died of a bullet wound to the left temple. The official NTC account says he was caught in crossfire as he was being driven to hospital. "He was already under arrest and he was hit in the crossfire," explained Mahmoud Jalil, the prime minister.
However the ambulance driver who ferried him said Col Gaddafi was already dead when he was loaded into the ambulance, around 500 yards from his point of capture.
One NTC member, who did not want to be named, admitted that this version of events was likely. "They beat him very harshly and then they killed him," he said. "This is a war."
By time I reached the site of his capture, around two hours after he was seized, the bodies of three of his companions still lay at the entrance to the drain.
It was an inglorious end. As I picked through the seafront ruined streets of District Two the following day, there was no sign of a command bunker or fortified compound where he had stayed and directed the defence.
Instead rebels wandering the streets where Col Gaddafi's loyalists had endured a storm of barrage said he had moved from house-to-house and basement to basement. He moved nightly, terrified of surveillance and air strikes from the Nato coalition planes and drones which had supported the rebels since March.
He had good reason for such precautions.
And the drain had already begun to take its place in Libyan history.
"This is the place where the rat Gaddafi was hiding," said one piece of graffiti sprayed onto the concrete.
Fighters flashing raising v-salutes, posed for photos alongside friends they had fought alongside for months.
"I have stopped counting how many friends I have lost. Too, too many," said Mohammad Bashir, a 32-year-old telecoms engineer from Tripoli.
"We never doubted it for a second, you know, though. These freedom fighters cannot be stopped. We were right and he was wrong."
Lone Rebel Fighter Celebrates the Fall of Sirte Amid the Ruins
By Rania El Gamal
MISRATA, Libya | Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:18pm EDT
(Reuters) - Libyan forces guarding Muammar Gaddafi's body in a cold storage room let in members of the public to view the deposed leader for a second day on Saturday, but the wounds that may hold the clue to how he died were covered up.
Gaddafi's body lay on a mattress on the floor of the cold room, as it did Friday when hundreds of members of the public filed in to see for themselves that the man who ruled Libya for 42 years was dead.
But unlike the previous day, Gaddafi's body was covered by a blanket that left only his head exposed, hiding the bruises on his torso and scratch marks on his chest that had earlier been visible.
And, crucially, a Reuters reporter who viewed the body said, Gaddafi's head had been turned to the left. That meant a bullet hole that earlier could be seen on the left side of his face, just in front of his ear, could no longer be seen.
Guards overseeing Gaddafi's body handed out green surgical masks to dozens of people filing in to take a look because of the stench of rotting flesh filling the room.
The bullet hole in Gaddafi's head, and the other wounds, could help solve the riddle of whether, as Libya's new rulers said, he was shot in crossfire in a battle or, as some accounts suggest, he was killed by the fighters who caught him.
A local military commander in the city of Misrata, where the forces which captured him took his body, said "over-enthusiastic" fighters took matters into their own hands when they came face to face with the man they despise.
"We wanted to keep him alive but the young guys, things went out of control," he said speaking on condition of anonymity.
Few people in Libya -- where thousands of people, including civilians, were killed by Gaddafi's forces in the seven-month rebellion -- say they are troubled by the manner of his death.
But if he was indeed killed by his captors, it will cast doubt on the promises by Libya's new rulers to respect human rights and prevent reprisals. It would also embarrass Western governments which gave their wholehearted backing to the NTC.
CAPTURED ALIVE, DEAD SHORTLY LATER
The dramatic minutes leading up to Gaddafi's death were chaotic, violent and gruesome -- as testified by the grainy mobile phone footage seen by the world of the former leader, bloodied and dazed, being dragged along by NTC fighters.
Gaddafi was still alive when he was captured hiding in a storm drain outside his hometown of Sirte, but he already had blood streaming down the side of his face and a wound close to his left ear very shortly after he had been seized.
Government fighters hauled him onto the bonnet of a Toyota pick-up truck with the intention, one of them said, of getting him through the crowd of fellow fighters and to an ambulance parked about 500 meters (546.8 yards) away.
Gaddafi can be heard in one video saying "God forbids this" several times as slaps from the crowd rain down on his head.
"This is for Misrata, you dog," said one man slapping him.
"Do you know right from wrong?" Gaddafi says.
"Shut up you dog," someone replies as more blows rain down.
Misrata, one of the heartlands of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, suffered months of siege and artillery bombardment at the hands of his forces.
Another video shows Gaddafi being heaved off the bonnet of the truck and dragged toward a car, then pulled down by his hair. "Keep him alive, keep him alive!" someone shouts.
Another man in the crowd lets out a high-pitched hysterical scream. Gaddafi then goes out of view and gunshots ring out. One of the fighters present said Gaddafi was in a bad way but alive when he was put in the ambulance.
Yet the ambulance driver, Ali Jaghdoun, said Gaddafi was dead when he picked him up and he then drove the body to the city of Misrata. "I didn't try to revive him because he was already dead," Jaghdoun said.
In other video footage obtained by Reuters a convoy of vehicles is seen speeding along a desert road, horns blaring and men shouting "We have Muammar! It's Muammar!."
In later footage the convoy slows to a halt. Fighters rush to an ambulance shouting that Gaddafi is dead. In the back of the vehicle a body lies with a bandage over a wound on its upper abdomen, matching the spot where a bullet hole was seen on Gaddafi's torso after the body was put on display in Misrata. The head is covered with a white sheet, but a man beside it raises it briefly affording a glimpse of the former ruler's face.
A young man appears beside the ambulance, a bearded man beside him shouts out:
"He's the killer. And I am the witness who saw him."
The young fighter exclaims excitedly:
"We found him in a hole. He had somebody with him inside it."
Grinning and brandishing a handgun, the man is feted and embraced by fighters.
"This is the guy who killed Gaddafi. Using this, you see," the man with the beard shouts, holding up the young man's hand in which he has a gun.
"He did it in front of me. I saw it in front of me."
The new footage does not make clear whether Gaddafi died of wounds sustained before he was put into the ambulance or whether he suffered wounds while in the vehicle.
A journalist at the scene confirmed Gaddafi had a head wound before he was put into the ambulance.
WOUNDS STITCHED UP
In the cold store in Misrata, the body of one of Gaddafi's sons, Mo'tassim, had been moved from another location elsewhere in Misrata and placed next to his dead father.
The circumstances leading to the death of Mo'tassim, his father's national security adviser who was also captured in Sirte, are similarly murky.
A Reuters reporter was shown a one-minute segment of mobile phone footage in which a man, who resembled Mo'tassim, was squatting in a room. He was stripped to the waist, and smoking a cigarette. He did not appear badly wounded.
Someone could be heard telling him repeatedly: "Say Allahu Akbar, say Allahu Akbar." The phrase, which means "God is greatest," is a favorite mantra of the anti-Gaddafi fighters.
At some point after that, he died. When a Reuters reporter saw his body Thursday evening, it was laid out in a private house in Misrata. Wounds to his jaw and part of his neck were visible.
Saturday in the cold store, Mo'tassim's body was covered up to the neck with a blanket. The wounds to his jaw and neck had been stitched up.
Later in the day, the body of a third man, Abu Bakr Younus Jabr, was brought in and placed on a stretcher between Gaddafi and his son.
Head of Gaddafi's armed forces, by then just a handful of troops, Jabr was captured in Sirte alongside his leader. A bandage was tied under his chin and looped over the top of his head.
Bullet wounds could be seen to his chest and the top of his left arm. A Reuters reporter who was able to get close to the body said she could see gunpowder residue around the wounds -- which is often consistent with being shot at close range.
The people queueing outside the cold store, waiting to view the bodies, did not seem concerned about how their former leader and his entourage died.
Two Filipino nurses filed in to take pictures. Children were among the few dozen people waiting outside for their turn.
Abdullah al-Senussi, a man with a white beard, was so frail he had to be supported by people on either side of him as he made his way to the cold store.
"We wanted to know if it was true or not," he said. "We wanted to see him."
Two men arrived waving airline tickets, saying they needed to jump the queue to see Gaddafi or they would miss their flights.
Asked if it would not have been better for Gaddafi to stand trial, Abdulatif, a pilot waiting in line, said: "What would he tell the mother whose children were killed or the girls who were raped?"
"If he lived and was killed a thousand times, that would still only be a trifle."
(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Matthew Jones)
By Mary Beth Sheridan, Saturday, October 22, 6:24 PM
BENGHAZI, Libya — The fighters who finished off the last of fallen leader Moammar Gaddafi’s forces returned to a hero’s welcome in the birthplace of the Libyan revolution on Saturday as thousands of flag-waving residents poured into the streets to cheer the convoy.
“God is great! God is great!” the crowd chanted as fighters in an assortment of green and blue camouflage rode on pickup trucks armed with machine guns and rocket launchers. The beaming troops, returning from the last holdout of Sirte, tossed candy to the crowd and flashed V-for-victory signs.
Libya’s interim government is expected toformally declare the war over and the country liberated on Sunday, eight months after anti-Gaddafi demonstrations erupted in Benghazi, triggering the first war of the Arab Spring.
International human rights groups have expressed alarm about indications that Gaddafi may have been killed in captivity by revolutionaries as Sirte fell Thursday. But no one at the parade here Saturday seemed disturbed by that possibility, recalling how the former leader jailed, tortured and killed thousands.
“We are very happy because Gaddafi was killed and humiliated,” said Mohanned Kaplan, 21, a geology student. Nearby, an ebullient group of young people chanted, “Too bad, nutcase!” referring to Gaddafi.
The crowd flanking the highway from Tripoli, 630 miles to the west, danced and ululated as the rusty pickups bearing the revolutionaries cruised through the streets. Many people solemnly saluted the returning fighters.
A giant red, green and black banner — the colors of the new Libyan flag — marked the spot where Gaddafi’s tanks were stopped at the city’s edge in March by the first NATO airstrike. Gaddafi had threatened to wipe out dissidents in the city.
As the parade proceeded, the air was filled with the pop of celebratory automatic-rifle fire and the boom of anti-aircraft and machine guns. Would the fighters voluntarily give up the weapons they had clearly come to cherish?
“Maybe some will not, but the majority, 95 percent, will certainly do so,” said Mahmoud Taher, 47, who had come out to enjoy the spectacle. “Libyans are not interested in weapons and fighting.”
Libyans in the crowd said they hoped their country would now enjoy things they could only dream about during the 42 years of virtual one-man rule by Gaddafi.
“It will be, like, modern, and open to the world,” Kaplan said. In the past, he said, “We couldn’t have trials.” Without being politically connected, he added, “we couldn’t set up companies.”
Faisal Gaddari, 29, a translator, said Gaddafi had discriminated against Benghazi, Libya’s second-biggest city.
“We didn’t have anything like new buildings. Everything he put in Sirte and Tripoli,” he said. “Now we hope with the new government, they will build all of Libya.”
Kaplan said most of those in the crowd had lost friends or relatives in the war. He had lost seven friends.
“When I remember this, I feel so, so, so, so sad,” he said. “But now, all Libyans are very happy — it’s extraordinary.”
In the past, Gaddari said, “if you say anything about Mr. Gaddafi, you will have big trouble.”
Now, he concluded, “We’re not afraid any more.”
8.30am - French Aircraft attack the convoy in which Gaddafi is travelling at a roundabout two miles west of Sirte. 15 armed pick-up trucks are destroyed in the attack. A wounded Gaddafi, accompanied by a handful of loyal men seeks refuge in a nearby storm drain. NTC forces initially fire anti-airctraft guns before moving in on foot.
11.05am - NTC forces announce that the last remaining areas of Sirte have been captured and that fighters are searching homes and buildings looking for any remaning Gadhafi loyalists.
2.00pm - After a fire fight Gaddafi is discovered cowering in the storm drain.
2.30pm - A local man tells Reuters news agency he saw Gaddafi shot in the abdomen with a 9mm pistol
2.45pm - A pro-Gaddafi TV website denies that the former Libyan leader has been captured
2.56pm - Reuters report Gaddafi has died of wounds sustained during his capture
3.00pm - Celebrations across Libya at the news of Gaddafi's capture
3.44pm : Mobile phone image is released of a man who appears to be Gadadfi wearing blood soaked clothing with blood on his face
4:02pm - Al-Jazeera TV is airing shaky footage of a man resembling Gaddafi lying dead or badly wounded, bleeding from the head and stripped to the waist as fighters roll him over on the pavement.
4.31pm - AFP reports that Gaddafi's son Mutassim has been found dead in Sirte.
4.30pm - Libya's acting Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril appears on television to confirm the news that Gaddafi is dead.
4.56pm - Video appears of fighters brandishing a gold-plated handgun said to have been taken from Gaddafi
4.59pm - Al-Jazeera shows video of Gaddafi's body being dragged along the ground
5.25pm - Reports come in that Gaddafi's body has arrived in Misrata.
6.00pm - Reuters reports that according to an NTC commander Gaddafi's son has been killed
7.50 pm - Al Jazeera announces it has received unconfirmed reports that Gaddafi's son Saif is dead
As international leaders tried to sort out the details of the ousted Libyan leader’s death, U.S. officials confirmed on Friday that an American Predator drone took part in the airstrikes that hit Gadhafi’s convoy. It’s still not clear exactly how he got his fatal wounds.
The officials said the Predator fired on the convoy Thursday as it was fleeing Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, and French aircraft launched guided missiles. According to accounts a number of vehicles in the convoy were damaged or destroyed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operations.
Gadhafi was wounded when revolutionary fighters captured him, and later died. He had gunshot wounds to his head, chest and stomach.