Video: Libya declares independence

  1. Transcript of: Libya declares independence

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: Libya 's interim leaders declared this a new day, celebrating liberation after eight months of civil war and decades of oppression under Moammar Gadhafi , at the same time, charting a course to democracy, based in Islamic law . But as the country's new founding fathers look forward, the US, among other countries, is calling for some accountability to the past and the question of how Gadhafi died. NBC 's Adrienne Mong reports from Misrata .

    ADRIENNE MONG reporting: A sea of red, black and green flooded Benghazi 's main square , the site where Libya 's uprising began eight months ago. Hundreds of thousands celebrating liberation from 42 years of rule under Moammar Gadhafi . The leader of the transitional government thanked rebel forces for winning the war and stressed the need for tolerance and reconciliation among the different tribes. Casting a shadow on the celebrations, however, questions still over Gadhafi 's death. As his corpse lay in Misrata for a third day, an autopsy confirmed he died from a bullet to the head. No other details have been released. Amateur video continues to emerge showing his last chaotic moments alive. In another piece of new footage, a rebel soldier grasped the gun of Gadhafi 's alleged killer saying, 'I saw it in front of me. He's the guy who killed him.' The US and other nations are urging a thorough investigation.

    Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Secretary of State): You know, I think it's important that this new government, this effort to have a democratic Libya , start with the rule of law , start with accountability.

    MONG: Fighters from the unit that found Gadhafi in a drain pipe in his hometown on Thursday said they don't care about how or when he died. 'The important thing,' they said, 'is that he was caught.' Towards the end the eccentric former leader was said to be growing impatient with life on the run. The fighters who seized him said he refused to believe his time was up. In Misrata , which put up some of the fiercest fighting against Gadhafi 's troops earlier this year, thousands of people again crowded into the recently renamed Freedom Square . Many of them said they wanted to look forward, not backwards.

    Unidentified Man: Now you have to look about the future.

    MONG: Today's declaration of liberation sets in motion a process that will ultimately end in the nation's first re-elections. Already there's a sign of what a new free Libya will look like. Transitional leaders have said that Islamic Sharia law will form the basis for all legislation. Adrienne Mong, NBC News, Misrata , Libya .

updated 10/23/2011 2:06:17 PM ET 2011-10-23T18:06:17

Libya's transitional leader declared his country's liberation Sunday after an 8-month civil war and set out plans for the future with an Islamist tone. The announcement was clouded, however, by international pressure to explain how ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi had been captured alive days earlier, then ended up dead from a gunshot to his head shortly afterward.

Gadhafi's death in circumstances that are still unclear, and the gruesome spectacle of his body laid out as a trophy in a commercial freezer and on public view, are testing the new Libyan leaders' commitment to the rule of law. Even at the ceremony to declare liberation, two speakers in positions of authority essentially said Gadhafi got what he deserved.

But transitional government leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, who made the keynote speech, did not mention the events surrounding Gadhafi's end and called on his people to eschew hatred.

"You should only embrace honesty, patience, and mercy," Abdul-Jalil told the crowd at the declaration ceremony in the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising against Gadhafi. He urged Libyans to reconcile their differences.

Video: Graphic video appears to show Gadhafi capture (on this page)

And he laid out a vision for the post-Gadhafi future with an Islamist tint, saying Islamic Sharia law would be the "basic source" of legislation and existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified. In a gesture that showed his own piety, he urged Libyans not to express their joy by firing guns in the air, but rather to chant "Allahu Akbar," or God is Great. He then stepped aside from the podium and knelt to offer a brief prayer of thanks.

Using Sharia as the main source of legislation is stipulated in the constitution of neighboring Egypt. Still, Egyptian laws remain largely secular as Sharia does not cover all aspects of modern day life.

The uprising against Gadhafi erupted in February as part of anti-government revolts spreading across the Middle East. Neighboring Tunisia, which put the so-called Arab Spring in motion with mass protests nearly a year ago, has taken the biggest step on the path to democracy, voting for a new assembly Sunday in its first truly free elections. Egypt, which has struggled with continued unrest, is next with parliamentary elections slated for November.

Libya's struggle has been the bloodiest so far in the region. Mass protests quickly turned into a civil war that killed thousands and paralyzed the country for the past eight months. Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte was the last loyalist stronghold to fall last week, but Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, apparently escaped with some of his supporters.

'I am happy': Libyans line up to see Gadhafi's body

Abdul-Jalil paid tribute to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation alliance led by Saudi Arabia, the Arab League and the European Union. NATO, which aided the anti-Gadhafi fighters with airstrikes, performed its task with "efficiency and professionalism," he added.

President Barack Obama congratulated Libyans on the declaration.

"After four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of deadly conflict, the Libyan people can now celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise," he said.

But just hours before that statement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Britain's new defense secretary, Philip Hammond, said a full investigation into Gadhafi's death is necessary.

Hammond said the Libyan revolutionaries' image had been "a little bit stained" by Gadhafi's death, Hammond adding that the new government "will want to get to the bottom of it in a way that rebuilds and cleanses that reputation."

"It's certainly not the way we do things," Hammond told BBC television. "We would have liked to see Col. Gadhafi going on trial to answer for his misdeeds."

Story: Rebels: Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam captured alive

Clinton told NBC's "Meet the Press" that she backs a proposal that the United Nations investigate Gadhafi's death and that Libya's National Transitional Council look into the circumstances, too.

An autopsy confirmed that Gadhafi died from a gunshot to the head, Libya's chief pathologist, Dr. Othman al-Zintani, said. However, the pathologist said he would not disclose further details or elaborate on Gadhafi's final moments, saying he would first deliver a full report to the attorney general.

Libya's acting prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, said he would not oppose an investigation, but cited an official reporting saying a wounded Gadhafi was killed in crossfire following his capture. Addressing the celebrations around Gadhafi's body, Jibril told the BBC in an interview on Sunday: "You have to appreciate the agony that people went through for 42 years."

The 69-year-old Gadhafi was captured wounded, but alive Thursday in his hometown of Sirte, the last city to fall to revolutionary forces. Bloody images of Gadhafi being taunted and beaten by his captors have raised questions about whether he was deliberately executed.

Gadhafi's body has been on public display in a commercial freezer in a shopping center in the port city of Misrata, which suffered from a bloody siege by regime forces that instilled a virulent hatred for the dictator in Misrata's residents.

People have lined up for days to view the body, which was laid out on a mattress on the freezer floor. The bodies of Gadhafi's son Muatassim and his ex-defense minister Abu Bakr Younis also were put on display, and people wearing surgical masks have filed past, snapping photos of the bodies.

Video: The reign of Moammar Gadhafi

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch, which viewed the bodies, said video footage, photos and other information it obtained "indicate that they might have been executed after being detained."

"Finding out how they died matters," said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch. "It will set the tone for whether the new Libya will be ruled by law or by summary violence."

The Syrian-based Al-Rai TV station, which has served as a mouthpiece for the Gadhafi clan, said the dictator's wife, Safiya, also demanded an investigation.

The vast majority of Libyans seemed unconcerned about the circumstances of the hated leader's death, but rather was relieved the country's ruler of 42 years was gone, clearing the way for a new beginning.

"If he (Gadhafi) was taken to court, this would create more chaos, and would encourage his supporters," said Salah Zlitni, 31, who owns a pizza parlor in downtown Tripoli. "Now it's over."

The long-awaited declaration of liberation starts the clock on Libya's transition to democracy. The transitional leadership has said it would declare a new interim government within a month of liberation and elections for a constitutional assembly within eight months, to be followed by votes for a parliament and president within a year.

At the ceremony in Benghazi, Abdul-Jalil outlined several changes to align with Islamic law.

"This revolution was looked after by God to achieve victory," he said.

Story: Tunisians turn out in force for first free vote

Abdul-Jalil said new banks would be set up to follow the Islamic banking system, which bans charging interest as a practice deemed usury. For the time being, he said interest would be canceled from any personal loans already taken out at less than 10,000 Libyan dinars (about $7,500).

He also announced the annulment of an existing family law that limits the number of wives Libyans can take, contradicting the provision in the Muslim holy book, the Quran, that allows men up to four wives.

And he urged Libyans to hand back money or property taken during the civil war.

Abdul-Jalil thanked those who fought and fell in the fight against Gadhafi's forces.

"They are somewhere better than here, with God," he said.

___

Associated Press writers Jamal Halaby in Southern Shuneh, Jordan and Raphael G. Satter in London contributed to this report.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Moammar Gadhafi

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  1. Col. Moammar Gadhafi is seen in Tripoli on Sept. 27, 1969, after leading a military coup that toppled King Idris. Gadhafi has maintained his rule over Libya for more than four decades since the coup. Gadhafi was killed in Sirte on Oct. 20 as revolutionary forces took the last bastion of his supporters. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Gadhafi, left, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, right, arrive in Rabat, Morocco, in December 1969 for the Arab Summit Conference. (Benghabit / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Col. Gadhafi, left, jokes with a group of British hippies in Tripoli in July 1973. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gadhafi was purportedly a major financier of the Black September movement, a band of Palestinian militants. Its members perpetrated the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. One of the Black September guerrillas who broke into the Olympic Village is seen in this picture. (Keystone via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gadhafi during the summit of the Organization of African Unity on Aug. 4, 1975, in Kampala, Uganda. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Flowers are laid at the memorial to Yvonne Fletcher, a British police constable who was shot dead by terrorists in April 1984 while on duty during a protest outside the Libyan embassy in London. Fletcher's death led to an 11-day police siege of the embassy and a breakdown of diplomatic relations between Libya and the United Kingdom. (Fox Photos via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Gadhafi and his second wife Safiya wave to the crowd upon their arrival in Dakar, Senegal, for a three-day official visit on Dec. 3, 1985. Gadhafi has eight biological children, six by Safiya. (Joel Robine / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. U.S. Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, fourth from left, and West Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen, fifth from left, inspect the damage following an April 5, 1986, bombing at a Berlin discotheque frequented by American serveicemen. Libya was blamed for the blast, which killed three and injured more than 200. Then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan retaliated by ordering airstrikes against the Libyan capital of Tripoli and city of Benghazi. (Wolfgang Mrotzkowski / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. French policemen and army soldiers unload crates of arms and ammunition seized aboard the Panamian merchant ship Eksund on Nov. 3, 1987 at Brest military port in France. A huge supply of arms and explosives purportedly supplied by Libya and destined for the Irish Republican Army was found aboard the vessel. (Andre Durand / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. This Dec. 22, 1988, photo shows the wreckage of the Pan Am airliner that exploded and crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people - most of them Americans. Gadhafi has accepted Libya's responsibility for the bombing and paid compensation to the victims' families. Libya's ex-justice minister was recently quoted as telling a Swedish newspaper that Gadhafi personally ordered the bombing. (Letkey / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, right, welcomes Gadhafi upon his arrival at Tunis airport on Jan. 10, 1990. (Frederic Neema / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is escorted by security officers in Tripoli on Feb. 18, 1992. Al-Megrahi was granted a compassionate release from a Scottish prison in August 2009 on the grounds that he was suffering from prostate cancer and would die soon. (Manoocher Deghati / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, left, accompanies Gadhafi on a tour at the pyramids of Giza on Jan. 19, 1993. (Aladin Abdel Naby / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An Egyptian border policeman counts passports belonging to Palestinians waiting at the post in Salloum for transit to the Gaza Strip on Sept. 12, 1995. Families were stranded at the border with Libya after Gadhafi decided to expel 30.000 Palestinians, reportedly in order to call attention to the political situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. (Amr Nabil / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Libyan women bodyguards provide security for VIPs during a military parade in Green Square on Sept. 1, 2003, to mark the 34th anniversary of Gadhafi's acension to power. (Mike Nelson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Family members of people killed in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, read documents on Sept. 12, 2003, as the U.N. Security Council votes to lift sanctions against Libya for the 1988 bombing. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, left, flew to Libya in 2004 to hold talks with Gadhafi inside a Bedouin tent. Here, Blair and and Gadhafi stroll to a separate tent in Tripoli for lunch during a break in their talks. Blair's role was particularly vital in Gadhafi's international rehabilitation. He praised the leader for ending Libya's nuclear and chemical weapons program and stressed the need for new security alliances in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. (Stefan Rousseau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. U.S. President George W. Bush looks at material and equipment surrendered by Libya, during a tour of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on July 12, 2004. Bush officially lifted the U.S. trade embargo against Libya on Sept. 20, 2004. (Tim Sloan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. View of the remains of Gadhafi's bombed-out headquarters, now turned into a living memento, inside his compound in Tripoli on Oct. 15, 2004. The sculpture in the center represents a golden fist grabbing a U.S. jet fighter. U.S. jets bombed Tripoli, killing Gadhafi's adopted 4-year-old daughter, in April 1986 in retaliation for the Berlin discotheque bombing. (John Macdougall / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is welcomed by Gadhafi in Tripoli on July 25, 2007. Sarkozy arrived for a meeting with the Libyan leader a day after the release of six foreign medics from a Libyan prison. (Patrick Kovarik / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Gadhafi's son Saif, center, attends a ceremony in the southern Libyan city of Ghiryan on Aug. 18, 2007, to mark the arrival of water from the Great Manmade River, a project to pipe water from desert wells to coastal communities. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Gadhafi looks at a Russian-language edition of his book "The Green Book" during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 17, 2008, in Tripoli. Putin was in Libya for a two-day visit to rebuild Russian-Libyan relations. (Artyom Korotayev / Epsilon via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Gadhafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pose for a picture after signing an agreement in the eastern city of Benghazi on Libya's Mediterranean coast on Aug. 30, 2008. Berlusconi apologized to Libya for damage inflicted by Italy during the colonial era and signed a $5 billion investment deal by way of compensation. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gadhafi poses with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prior to a meeting in Tripoli on Sept. 5, 2008. Rice arrived in Libya on the first such visit in more than half a century, marking a new chapter in Washington's reconciliation with the former enemy state. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gadhafi attends the closing session of the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar, on March 30, 2009. (Marwan Naamani / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Gadhafi waves after delivering a speech during a meeting with 700 women from the business, political and cultural spheres on June 12, 2009, in Rome. The Libyan strongman drew cheers and jeers when he criticized Islam's treatment of women but then suggested it should be up to male relatives to decide if a woman can drive. (Christophe Simon / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. U.S .President Barack Obama shakes hands with Gadhafi during the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, on July 9, 2009. (Michael Gottschalk / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, top left, is accompanied by Seif al-Islam el-Gadhafi, son of the Libyan leader, upon his arrival at the airport in Tripoli on Aug. 20, 2009. Scotland freed the terminally ill Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds, allowing him to die at home in Libya despite American protests that he should be shown no mercy. (Amr Nabil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. The president of the U.N. General Assembly, Ali Abdussalam Treki, top center, listens in apparent misery as Gadhafi speaks on Sept. 23, 2009, at U.N. headquarters in New York. It was Gadhafi's first appearance before the U.N., and he emptied out much of the chamber with an exhaustive 95-minute speech in which he criticized the decision-making structure of the world body and called for investigations of all the wars and assassinations that have taken place since the U.N.'s founding. (Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Gadhafi greets Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during the plenary session at the Africa-South America Summit on Margarita Island on Sept. 27, 2009. Chavez and Gadhafi urged African and South American leaders to strive for a new world order countering Western economic dominance. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Gadhafi and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a group picture of Arab and African leaders ahead of the opening of the second Arab-African summit in the coastal town of Sirte, Libya, on Oct. 10, 2010. Ben Ali and Mubarak were driven out of power by popular revolts in 2011. (Sabri Elmehedwi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Gadhafi is followed by members of the press in Tripoli before making a speech hoping to defuse tensions on March 2. Gadhafi blamed al-Qaida for creating turmoil and told applauding supporters there was a conspiracy to control Libya and its oil. (Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Libyan rebels step on a picture of Gadhafi at a checkpoint in Tripoli's Qarqarsh district on Aug. 22. Libyan government tanks and snipers put up a scattered, last-ditch effort in Tripoli on Monday after rebels swept into the heart of the capital, cheered on by crowds hailing the end of Gadhafi's 42 years in power. (Bob Strong / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. A man in Tripoli holds a photo said to be of Moammar Gadhafi after the announcement of the former leader's death, Oct. 20, 2011. Gadhafi was killed when revolutionary forces overwhelmed his hometown, Sirte, the last major bastion of resistance two months after the regime fell. (Abdel Magid Al-fergany / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: TO GO WITH AFP PACKAGE ON THE 40TH ANNIV
    AFP - Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (34) Moammar Gadhafi through the years
  2. Image: A photo said to show people gathering during recent days' unrest in Benghazi, Libya. The content, date and location of the image could not be independently verified.
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    Slideshow (81) Conflict in Libya

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