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Who killed Gadhafi? Conflicting stories emerge

Disturbing images of a blood-stained Moammar Gadhafi being jostled by angry fighters may be key to clearing away the thicket of stories about how he died.
/ Source: Reuters

Disturbing images of a blood-stained and shaken Moammar Gadhafi being jostled by angry fighters quickly circulated around the world after the Libyan dictator's dramatic death near his home town of Sirte.

The exact circumstances of his demise are still unclear with conflicting accounts of his death circulating. But the footage, possibly of the last chaotic moments of Gadhafi's life, offered some clues into what happened.

Gadhafi was still alive when he was captured near Sirte. In the video, filmed by a bystander in the crowd and later aired on television around the world, Gadhafi is shown being dragged off a vehicle's bonnet and pulled to the ground by his hair.

"Keep him alive, keep him alive!" someone shouts. Gunshots then ring out. The camera veers off.

"They captured him alive and while he was being taken away, they beat him and then they killed him," one senior source in Libya's ruling National Transitional Council told Reuters. "He might have been resisting."

'He didn't show any resistance'
In what appeared to contradict the events depicted in the video, the council said Gadhafi was killed when a gunfight broke out after his capture between his supporters and government fighters. He died from a bullet wound to the head.

It said no order had been given to kill him.

"'Gadhafi was taken out of a sewage pipe ... he didn't show any resistance. When we started moving him he was hit by a bullet in his right arm and when they put him in a truck he did not have any other injuries,''' Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told a news conference, reading from a forensic report.

"'When the car was moving it was caught in crossfire between the revolutionaries and Gadhafi forces in which he was hit by a bullet in the head,''' Jibril said reading from the report.

"The forensic doctor could not tell if it came from the revolutionaries or from Gadhafi's forces,'' Jibril said.

Gadhafi was alive when he was taken from Sirte, but died a few minutes before reaching hospital, the prime minister said.

'He called us rats'
Gadhafi called the rebels who rose up against his 42 years of one-man rule "rats," but in the end it was he who was captured cowering in a drainage pipe full of rubbish and filth.

"He called us rats, but look where we found him," said Ahmed Al Sahati, a 27-year-old government fighter, standing next to two stinking drainage pipes under a six-lane highway near Sirte.

On the ground, government fighters and the scenes of sheer carnage nearby told the story of the dictator's final hours.

Shortly before dawn prayers on Thursday, Gadhafi, surrounded by a few dozen loyal bodyguards and accompanied by the head of his now non-existent army Abu Bakr Younis Jabr, broke out of the two-month siege of Sirte and made a break for the west.

But they did not get far.

U.S. officials told NBC News that a Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile and a NATO warplane also launched a missile at the 15-vehicle convoy about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, destroying several vehicles and scattering the rest. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said a French aircraft was involved in the attack.

Some two miles west of Sirte, 15 pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns lay burned out, smashed and smoldering next to an electricity sub station some 20 meters from the main road.

They had clearly been hit by a force far beyond anything the motley army the former rebels has assembled during eight months of revolt to overthrow the once feared leader.

But there was no bomb crater, indicating the strike may have been carried out by a helicopter gunship, or that it had been strafed by a fighter jet.

'My master is here'
Inside the trucks still in their seats sat the charred skeletal remains of drivers and passengers killed instantly by the strike. Other bodies lay mutilated and contorted strewn across the grass. Some 50 bodies in all.

Gadhafi himself and a handful of his men escaped death and appeared to have run through a stand of trees toward the main road and hid in the two drainage pipes.

But a group of government fighters were on their tail.

"At first we fired at them with anti-aircraft guns, but it was no use," said Salem Bakeer, while being feted by his comrades near the road. "Then we went in on foot.

"One of Gadhafi'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 told Reuters.

"Then I think Gadhafi must have told them to stop. 'My master is here, my master is here,'" he said, 'Moammar Gadhafi is here and he is wounded,'" said Bakeer.

"We went in and brought Gadhafi out. He was saying, 'What's wrong? What's wrong? What's going on?' Then we took him and put him in the car," Bakeer said.

From there, details of how he died veer from the government's version.

At the time of capture, Gadhafi was already wounded with gunshots to his leg and to his back, Bakeer said.

Other government fighters who said they took part in Gadhafi's capture, separately confirmed Bakeer's version of events, though one said Gadhafi was shot and wounded at the last minute by one of his own men.

"One of Moammar Gadhafi's guards shot him in the chest," said Omran Jouma Shawan.

Another of the fighters who said he took part in the capture toted a heavily engraved a golden pistol he said he took from Gadhafi as he was hoisted on the shoulders of his comrades.

Army chief Jabr was also captured alive, Bakeer said. National Transitional Council officials later announced he was dead along with Gadhafi's fourth son, Muatassim.

Fallen electricity cables partially covered the entrance to the pipes and the bodies of three men, apparently Gadhafi bodyguards lay at the entrance to one end, one in shorts probably due to a bandaged wound on his leg.

Four more bodies lay at the other end of the pipes. All black men, one had his brains blown out; another man had been decapitated, his dreadlocked head lying beside his torso.

Joyous government fighters fired their weapons in the air, shouted "Allahu Akbar" and posed for pictures. Others wrote graffiti on the concrete parapets of the highway.

"Gadhafi was captured here," said one simply.