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Gadhafi's Death Caps Libya's Civil War


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Ari Shapiro, filling in for Steve Inskeep. In Tripoli this morning, Libyans awoke for the first time in 42 years to a country without Moammar Gadhafi.

INSALA MABROUK: If you were in Libya last night, you will see by yourself that the happiness all around the country, all around the streets, all around the cities, that the people are happy, singing, dancing and laughing.

MONTAGNE: That's Insala Mabrouk(ph). We reached him at his home outside of Tripoli. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed yesterday after being captured in his hometown of Sirte. His death marks a spectacular fall from power that began in February when anti-government forces seized the coastal city of Misrata.

SHAPIRO: NPR producer Grant Clark is in Tripoli and joins us now with the latest. Hi, Grant.


SHAPIRO: There's been some confusion about how Gadhafi went from being captured to killed. Bring us up to date.

CLARK: Well, yeah. The chain of events is starting to emerge more clearly than was known yesterday. What we do know, and according to the local military council in the city of Misrata, which is near to Sirte, that anti-Gadhafi fighters had loyalists pinned down to a block of buildings in Sirte. They had been fighting them for weeks without much luck of finishing the fight. But yesterday morning around 8:00 a.m. local time, French jets under NATO command saw a convoy of several dozen vehicles, including an armed vehicle leaving that area, trying to get out of the city of Sirte. NATO says it fired on the convoy to get it to stop, and then Transitional National Council spokespeople say that its brigades then engaged the convoy in a firefight and a number of vehicles' occupants, including Gadhafi, got out and fled on foot. And that's where it gets a little murky because the TNC account says that he was killed in crossfire. But fighters on the scene have told reporters that he was shot while trying to escape.

SHAPIRO: And there are Internet videos that show him wounded and alive. Correct?

CLARK: That's correct. And that much is clear, that he was captured alive. But what is still somewhat in dispute is exactly at what point he was killed and who specifically was responsible for that. But they do say he was found with wounds when he was captured.

SHAPIRO: Now, you're in the nation's capital, Tripoli. Describe what the mood has been like there in the last 24 hours. Pretty celebratory, I imagine.

CLARK: There was a wave of euphoria that took over the capital yesterday, Ari. We saw hundreds upon hundreds of people coming out into the streets to celebrate, from children to grandmothers waving flags, stopping traffic on some of the main highways, running from the airport into the city. And untold number of bullets shot into the air from fighters and anybody who had a weapon in celebration of the news that Moammar Gadhafi had been captured and killed. The authorities have been really struggling to get people to stop doing that. There have been a number of injuries from stray bullets and that sort of thing. It's a problem in the city and pretty scary for those of us who are trying to cover this.

SHAPIRO: Just briefly, Grant, what do we know abut the whereabouts of Gadhafi's sons and his other family members?

CLARK: Well, we know that his son Mo'tassim, who is his national security adviser, was killed with him yesterday. In Sirte, his wife and daughter Aisha, along with sons Hannibal and Mohammed, fled to neighboring Algeria in late August and are believed to be still there. And his third son, Saadi, crossed into neighboring Niger a few weeks later. Saif al-Islam, the one-time heir-apparent to the Gadhafi throne, if you like, was with him in his final hours and reportedly was captured and is being treated in a hospital in Misrata, or in that area, for wounds sustained during the battle of Sirte yesterday.

SHAPIRO: Does it seem as though this is the end or are there still Gadhafi loyalists fighting?

CLARK: Well, there are no known battles continuing right now. The town of Bani Walid, about 90 miles south of Tripoli, fighters are still doing mopping up operations and reportedly still looking for loyalists who might be hiding in the city - it was a former stronghold. I would imagine that local brigades are, when celebrations are over, will be trying to figure out what the next step is in dealing with the aftermath, assessing damage and just securing the city once and for all.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Grant Clark in Tripoli. Thanks, Grant.

CLARK: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Grant Clark