Moammar Qaddafi Reported Killed in Final Battle for Sirte

Tripoli, Libya – Fugitive former leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed today during the final battle for Sirte, his hometown, according to a variety of officials of the interim government in Libya.

Members of the National Transitional Council, the interim ruling authority, told McClatchy and other news agencies that Gadhafi had been captured and was wounded in both legs, but Reuters, citing a senior council official, reported that Gadhafi had been killed.

“It is confirmed, Gadhafi is captured,” NTC member Mohamed al Sayegh told McClatchy in Tripoli.

NTC member Abdel Majid Mlegta told Reuters that “there was a lot of firing against his group and he died.” Earlier, Mlegta had confirmed that Gadhafi was “captured and wounded in both legs at dawn on Thursday as he tried to flee in a convoy which NATO warplanes attacked,” according to Reuters.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the interim government's military commander in Tripoli, also said that Gadhafi was dead, Al Jazeera reported.

The conflicting reports quickly spread via Twitter, with many Libya observers urging caution because of the notorious unreliability of the transitional council, which has issued several erroneous statements alleging the capture or death of Gadhafi’s sons. One Arab analyst tweeted that NTC should stand for “Not Too Credible.”

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The Getty photo agency and other news sites published a photo that purportedly was taken by a cell-phone camera during Gadhafi's capture. The photo shows a blood-soaked man who strongly resembles Gadhafi being manhandled. No other details were available.

Residents of Tripoli, however, didn’t wait for confirmation before unleashing a jubilant volley of gunfire and horn honking. The sounds got louder and the weapons got heavier as the news spread. Former rebels jogged through the streets shouting “God is great!” a rallying cry of the young fighters.

After 42 years in power, Gadhafi’s bizarre and brutal regime is so deeply ingrained in society that many Libyans have said only his death or capture would clear the path for a new political order.

Another symbolic victory Thursday came with the former rebels’ announcement of the fall of Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, where regime loyalists fought weeks of pitched battles against the slowly encroaching anti-Gadhafi brigades.

© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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