Pulled from drain pipe, Gadhafi was shown no mercy
In Sirte, the ecstatic former rebels celebrated the city's fall after weeks of fighting by firing endless rounds into the sky, pumping their guns, knives and even a meat cleaver in the air and singing the national anthem.
The outpouring of joy reflected the deep hatred of a leader who had brutally warped Libya with his idiosyncratic rule. After seizing power in a 1969 coup that toppled the monarchy, Gadhafi created a "revolutionary" system of "rule by the masses," which supposedly meant every citizen participated in government but really meant all power was in his hands. He wielded it erratically, imposing random rules while crushing opponents, often hanging anyone who plotted against him in public squares.
Abroad, Gadhafi posed as a Third World leader, while funding militants, terror groups and guerrilla armies. His regime was blamed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland and the downing of a French passenger get in Africa the following year, as well as the 1986 bombing of a German discotheque frequented by U.S. servicemen that killed three people.
The day began with revolutionary forces bearing down on the last of Gadhafi's heavily armed loyalists who in recent days had been squeezed into a block of buildings of about 700 square yards.
A large convoy of vehicles moved out of the buildings, and revolutionary forces moved to intercept it, said Fathi Bashagha, spokesman for the Misrata Military Council, which commanded the fighters who captured him. At 8:30 a.m., NATO warplanes struck the convoy, a hit that stopped it from escaping, according to French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet.
Fighters then clashed with loyalists in the convoy for three hours, with rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft weapons and machine guns. Members of the convoy got out of the vehicles, Bashagha said.
Gadhafi and other supporters fled on foot, with fighters in pursuit, he said. A Gadhafi bodyguard captured as they ran away gave a similar account to Arab TV stations.
Gadhafi and several bodyguards took refuge in a drainage pipe under a highway nearby. After clashes ensued, Gadhafi emerged, telling the fighters outside, "What do you want? Don't kill me, my sons," according to Bashagha and Hassan Doua, a fighter who was among those who captured him.
Bashagha said Gadhafi died in the ambulance from wounds suffered during the clashes. Abdel-Jalil Abdel-Aziz, a doctor who accompanied the body in the ambulance during the 120-mile drive to Misrata, said Gadhafi died from two bullet wounds - to the head and chest.
A government account of Gadhafi's death said he was captured unharmed and later was mortally wounded in the crossfire from both sides.
Amnesty International urged the revolutionary fighters to give a complete report, saying it was essential to conduct "a full, independent and impartial inquiry to establish the circumstances of Col. Gadhafi's death."
The TV images of Gadhafi's bloodied body sent ripples across the Arab world and on social networks such as Twitter.
Many wondered whether a similar fate awaits Syria's Bashar Assad and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh, two leaders clinging to power in the face of long-running Arab Spring uprisings. For the millions of Arabs yearning for freedom, democracy and new leadership, the death of one of the region's most brutal dictators will likely inspire and invigorate the movement for change.
As word spread of Gadhafi's death, jubilant Libyans poured into Tripoli's central Martyr's Square, chanting "Syria! Syria!" - urging the Syrian opposition on to victory.
"This will signal the death of the idea that Arab leaders are invincible," said Egyptian activist and blogger Hossam Hamalawi. "Mubarak is in a cage, Ben Ali ran away, and now Gadhafi killed. ... All this will bring down the red line that we can't get these guys."
Thursday's final blows to the Gadhafi regime allow Libya's interim leadership, the National Transitional Council, to declare the entire country liberated.
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