The former Libyan strongman, Muammar Qadhafi was killed on Thursday in a final assault by new regime forces on the last pocket of resistance in his hometown Sirte, sparking wild joy and celebratory gunfire across Libya.
“We announce to the world that Qadhafi has died in the custody of the revolution,” said National Transitional Council spokesman Abdel Hafez Ghoga in the eastern city of Benghazi. “It is a historic moment. It is the end of tyranny and dictatorship. Qadhafi has met his fate,” he added.
He said the fugitive leader's death been “confirmed by our commanders on the ground in Sirte, those who captured him after he had been wounded in the battle for Sirte.”
As Libyans on the streets of Tripoli and Sirte fired automatic weapons into the air and danced for joy, world leaders welcomed Colonel Qadhafi's demise as the end of despotism, tyranny, dictatorship and ultimately war in the north African country.
NTC fighters who had fought in the bloody seven-month conflict that toppled the veteran despot at a cost of more than 25,000 lives, erupted in jubilation at the news, which followed earlier reports that he had been captured alive.
A photograph taken on a mobile phone appeared to show the 69-year-old Qadhafi, toppled by NTC fighters in August, heavily bloodied. In the blurry image, he is seen with blood-soaked clothing and blood daubed across his face.
A video circulating among NTC fighters in Sirte showed mobile phone footage of what appeared to be Col. Qadhafi's bloodied corpse.
In the grainy images, a large number of NTC fighters are seen yelling in chaotic scenes around a khaki-clad body which has blood oozing from the face and neck.
The body is then dragged off by the fighters and loaded in the back of a pick-up truck. Another NTC commander said one of Col. Qadhafi's sons, Mutassim, was also killed in Sirte.
“We found him dead. We put his body and that of [former Defence Minister] Abu Bakr Yunis Jabar in an ambulance to take them to Misrata,” said Mohamed Leith.
News of Col. Qadhafi's death came as new regime troops overran the last redoubt of his loyalists in Sirte, bringing to an end a two-month siege.
Fighters moving in from east and west overcame the last resistance in the city's Number Two residential neighbourhood where his diehard supporters had been holed up.
“Sirte has been liberated, and with the confirmation that Qadhafi is dead. Libya has been completely liberated,” a top NTC military official, Khalifa Haftar, told AFP in Tripoli. “Those who were fighting with Qadhafi have either been killed or captured.”
Pick-up trucks blaring out patriotic music criss-crossed the streets of Sirte Thursday afternoon, as fighters flashed V for victory signs.
“We did it! We did it!” chanted the fighters overcome with emotion, exchanging well-wishes, hugs and handshake.
“We finished Qadhafi and his people,” said a fighter. Col. Qadhafi was wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity but Libyan leaders had said they wanted him captured alive so he could be put on trial.
In Brussels, NATO said two alliance aircraft on Thursday morning struck two pro-Qadhafi military vehicles near Sirte. “At approximately 0830 local time today, NATO aircraft struck two pro-Qadhafi forces military vehicles which were part of a larger group manoeuvring in the vicinity of Sirte,” NATO said.A diplomat said checks were under way to verify reports that the convoy in which Qadhafi was travelling was stopped by NATO strikes.