Confusion mounts over who pulled the trigger

DISTURBING images of a bloodstained and shaken Muammar Gaddafi being dragged around by angry fighters quickly circulated around the world after the Libyan dictator’s death near his hometown of Sirte.

The exact circumstances of his demise are still unclear, with conflicting accounts of his death. But the footage of the last chaotic moments of Gadd-afi’s life offers some clues as to what happened.

Gaddafi was still alive when he was captured near Sirte. In the video, filmed by a bystander, Gaddafi is wounded and dazed, being dragged off a vehicle’s bonnet and pulled to the ground by his hair.

“Keep him alive, keep him alive,” someone shouts. Gaddafi then goes out of view and gunshots ring out.

“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 (NTC) told Reuters. “He might have been resisting.”

In what appeared to contradict the events in the video, the NTC said Gaddafi 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, the prime minister said. The NTC said no order had been given to kill him.

On the ground, government fighters described scenes of carnage as they told stories of Gaddafi’s final hours.

Shortly before dawn prayers, Gaddafi, 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.

They did not get far.

France said its aircraft struck military vehicles belonging to Gaddafi forces near Sirte at about 6.30am Irish time, but said it was unsure whether the strikes had killed Gaddafi. A Nato official said the convoy was hit either by a French plane or a US Predator drone.

Five kilometres west of Sirte, 15 pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns lay burned out, smashed and smouldering next to an electricity substation, 20 metres 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 leader.

There was no bomb crater, indicating the strike may have been carried out by a jet fighter.

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 across the grass. Some 50 bodies in all.

Mansour Daou, leader of Gaddafi’s personal bodyguards, was with Libya’s former ruler shortly before his end. He told al-Arabiya TV that after the air strike the survivors “split into groups and each group went its own way”.

“I was with Gaddafi and Abu Bakr Younis Jabr and about four volunteer soldiers.” Daou said he had not witnessed his leader’s death because he had fallen unconscious after being wounded in the back by a shell explosion.

Fighters on the ground said Gaddafi and a handful of his men appeared to have run through a stand of trees and taken refuge in the two drainage pipes.

Salem Bakeer, while being feted by his comrades near the road, said: “We went in on foot. One of Gaddafi’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.

“Then I think Gaddafi must have told them to stop. ‘My master is here, my master is here,’ he said, ‘Muammar Gaddafi is here and he is wounded,’” said Bakeer.

“We went in and brought Gaddafi 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.

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

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

“One of Muammar Gaddafi’s guards shot him in the chest,” said Omran Jouma Shawan.

There were also other versions of events. NTC official, Abdel Majid Mlegta, said Gaddafi had finally been cornered in a compound in Sirte after hours of fighting, and wounded in a gun battle with NTC forces.

“He was bleeding from his stomach. It took a long time to transport him. He bled to death (in the ambulance),” Mlegta said.

Another NTC official, speaking anonymously, gave a violent account of Gaddafi’s death: “[NTC fighters] beat him very harshly and then they killed him. This is a war.”

A doctor who examined Gaddafi’s body said he was killed by a bullet to his intestines, and was also shot in the head.

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