Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, whose dictatorship lasted 42 years, died after being captured by forces led by the Misrata Military Council, the group said.
Details will be announced later today in a news conference in Misrata, the council in the western city said in an e-mailed statement. Its troops led the assault on Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and act independently from the interim government, known as the National Transitional Council.
Qaddafi’s death comes as the NTC struggles to unite the factions that challenged his regime after protests in February were put down. The Misrata Military Council issued its comments as NTC officials gave their own statement in the eastern city of Benghazi, their base during the eight-month conflict.
“Qaddafi has been killed at the hand of the revolutionaries,” Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, NTC vice chairman, told reporters. The Misrata Military Council said it “confirmed news that the tyrant died after being captured.”
Libyans waving flags and assault rifles poured into the streets of the capital, Tripoli, and other cities to celebrate the news of Qaddafi’s demise. Men held their children on their shoulders and fighters in camouflage flashed victory signs and fired their weapons into the air, as people formed swirling circles and danced to the new post-Qaddafi national anthem. The images were televised by international broadcasters.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which began an air campaign against Qaddafi forces in March, said its planes struck two loyalist military vehicles that were part of a “larger group” near the Sirte.
“These armed vehicles were conducting military operations and presented a clear threat to civilians,” NATO’s operation spokesman, Colonel Roland Lavoie, said in an e-mailed statement. The strike took place at about 8:30 a.m. local time today, the alliance said.
The former leader had been in hiding since fleeing Tripoli at the end of August, issuing statements that he preferred to die a martyr. His loyalists massed in Sirte, strategically important because of its airport and harbor, and in Bani Walid.
Earlier today, Misratan forces said they had defeated the last of Qaddafi’s loyalists in Sirte, ending weeks of battles that erupted last month after talks on the town’s surrender broke down. The NTC has said that control of Sirte will begin an eight-month countdown to elections for a national council.
The interim government attributed the tenacity of loyalists in Sirte to the presence of senior Qaddafi aides, including one of his sons, Mutassim. The NTC also said another Qaddafi son, his presumed heir Saif al-Islam, was hiding in Bani Walid. Al Jazeera said Mutassim had been arrested today in Sirte.
Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves. Oil prices dipped at around noon London time on news of Qaddafi’s capture and injuries, before recovering later. Brent crude was trading 81 cents up at $109.20 a barrel at 1:45 p.m. on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange.
Libyan oil output, which fell from 1.6 million barrels a day to zero during the uprising, may reach 600,000 barrels a day by the end of the year, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris.