Former Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi died of wounds suffered on Thursday as fighters battling to complete an eight-month-old uprising against his rule overran his hometown Sirte, Libya's interim rulers said. There was no independent confirmation of Gadhafi's killing or capture.
Gadhafi's apparent demise, which came swiftly after his capture near Sirte, is the most dramatic single development in the Arab Spring revolts that have unseated rulers in Egypt and Tunisia and threatened the grip on power of the leaders of Syria and Yemen.
Gadhafi's dead body is currently being taken to a secret location for "security reasons", NTC official Mohammed Abdel Kafi told Reuters.
National Transitional Council official Abdel Majid Mlegta told Reuters earlier that Gadhafi, who was in his late 60s, was captured and wounded in both legs at dawn on Thursday as he tried to flee in a convoy which NATO warplanes attacked.
"He was also hit in his head," the official said. "There was a lot of firing against his group and he died." Majid Mlegta told Reuters earlier by telephone that the head of Gadhafi's armed forces Abu Bakr Younus Jabr had also been killed during the capture of the Libyan ex-leader.
NATO said it was checking reports of the capture of Gadhafi and said they could take some time to confirm. "We are checking and assessing the situation," a NATO official said. "Clearly these are very significant developments, which will take time to confirm. If it is true, then this is truly a historic day for the people of Libya."
A senior Obama administration official says that the U.S. is working to confirm reports of Gadhafi's death or capture.
An anti-Gadhafi fighter said Gadhafi had been found hiding in a hole in the ground and had said "Don't shoot, don't shoot" to the men who grabbed him. His capture followed within minutes of the fall of Sirte, a development that extinguished the last significant resistance by forces loyal to the deposed leader.
Gadhafi, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of ordering the killing of civilians, was toppled by rebel forces on August 23 after 42 years of one-man rule over the oil-producing North African state.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday at a meeting with students at Tripoli University, "We don’t know where he is, but we hope he can be captured or killed soon so that you don’t have to fear him any longer, and then you have to move forward."
Moussa Ibrahim, former spokesman for Muammar Gadhafi's fallen government, was also captured near the city of Sirte on Thursday, said Abdul Hakim Al Jalil, a Libyan transitional forces commander.
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