- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
Ever since the news first surfaced several hours ago that Libyan forces had captured Muammar Qaddafi and his stronghold of Sirte after a protracted battle, reports of Qaddafi’s death and the effective end of the Libyan conflict as we know it have been flooding in. The situation is very fluid, but here’s what we know right now:
Circumstances: There are conflicting reports about how Qaddafi died. The AP, citing Libyan fighters, reports that a NATO airstrike hit a fleeing convoy carrying Qaddafi. In Tripoli, however, Col. Ahmed Bani tells Al Jazeera that a wounded Qaddafi had tried to resist "resist [Libyan forces] so they took him down." A Libyan fighter brandishing Qaddafi’s gold-plated pistol tells the BBC that he found the former Libyan leader hiding in a kind of sewer or hole in the ground in Sirte, and that Qaddafi simply said, "Don’t shoot." Tripoli Stabilization Committee official Mohamed Benrasali, citing Libyan fighters, informs the New York Times that Qaddafi was captured alive in a car leaving Sirte but soon died from wounds to his head and legs. Getting to the bottom of how Qaddafi died matters. As NPR’s Andy Carvin tweets, "If it’s true Gaddafi was captured alive and now he’s dead… Someone at the NTC going to have to explain that."
Confirmations: Past reports of the death or capture of Qaddafi’s family members have proven false, so it’s important to look at who’s confirming today’s news. Libya’s interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril, information minister Mahmoud Shammam, and Tripoli military council chief Abdul Hakim Belhaj have all confirmed Qaddafi’s death. Several gruesome images allegedly showing a dead or severely wounded Qaddafi are circulating as well, including a couple photos obtained by AFP and Al Arabiya and footage running on Al Jazeera. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the head of Libya’s interim government, has yet to confirm Qaddafi’s capture or death, but he’s expected to address the country soon. NATO has confirmed that it conducted airstrikes in Sirte but has not confirmed Qaddafi’s death, and the State Department and White House are staying quiet so far as well.
What’s next: Again, there are dueling reports. Al Jazeera is reporting that Qaddafi’s body has been transported to a mosque in the nearby city of Misrata while Al Arabiya says the corpse has been moved to a commercial center in Misrata. On Twitter, the AP’s Hadeel Al-Shalchi cites a Misrata military council member as saying Qaddafi’s body will be taken to the city square for display.