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The Post-Gadhafi Era Begins In Libya


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Libyans are preparing to declare the liberation of their country two days after the death of Moammar Gadhafi. NATO plans to end its seven-month mission in the country on October 31. But the manner in which Gadhafi died remains a question that the United Nations and human rights organizations want answered. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins us from Tripoli. Lourdes, thanks for being with us.


SIMON: We've certainly - most of seen a lot of video at this point. What do we know about how Gadhafi was killed?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I think it's pretty clear that Gadhafi and his son, Mutassim, were executed. There is video evidence that they were live when they were captured. The bodies now show that Gadhafi died as a result of bullet wounds to the head and chest. Now, who executed him and when exactly that happened is still unclear. There have been competing claims of how it happened. But the Libyan transitional government's claim that he was killed in crossfire is just not credible now. The United Nations, human rights groups, as you mentioned, are asking for an investigation but I think that isn't going to happen. We've heard from the military council in Misrata, the city that's holding the body in a refrigerated food locker, that they won't be conducting an autopsy. And we are also being told that they'll be moving the body from there today presumably to a burial place. Now, where Moammar will be buried is equally the subject of contention, Scott. After his death, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, if you recall, was returned to his tribal home and a shrine was built for him by his family and it's become a pilgrimage site for many in Iraq. Now, there's a clear sense here that they don't want that to happen.

SIMON: Let me follow up a bit. No autopsy means they won't be able to trace the bullets.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, no autopsy means they won't be able to trace the bullet. No investigation means they won't be questioning the people who allegedly had something to do with his execution and capture. And so therefore we may never really know what happened in the last moments of Moammar Gadhafi's life.

SIMON: The transitional government was supposed to formally declare liberation today but I gather the ceremony's been postponed. Any idea why?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's not clear why the ceremony has been delayed, but they are going to go through with it this weekend with a great deal of pomp and circumstance. It's a key moment for the country. It's when a countdown of sorts will begin with an interim government put in place, the dissolution of the body that oversaw the rebel half of Libya during those long bloody months of war, the National Transitional Council. And so what will now see is an interim government and then elections that are optimistically slated for eight months from now. But this is a country with no institutions, no political parties and frankly a very fractured and wounded population. So, we'll see if that timetable will actually stick.

SIMON: Lourdes, what are you hearing from individual Libyans now of this very important, momentous moment in their history?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I think there are very few people who wanted to see Gadhafi alive and who wanted to see him face trial, if the people I've spoken to are representative. If you see how contentious his death has been, they say imagine if what would have happened if he had to face trial here. They tell me it would have only prolonged Libya's long nightmare. Let's not forget Gadhafi is dead but the chance of some kind of justice may come. Al-Saadi and Saif al-Islam, Gadhafi's sons, are still at large, as is Abdullah Senussi, Gadhafi's intelligence chief. There are reports surfacing today that he may have fled also to Niger, where Saadi Gadhafi is. Saadi and brother Saif and Senussi are wanted by the International Criminal Court, so Libyans may yet see someone face court for what happened here.

SIMON: What do you see as a biggest challenge Libyans have right now?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think the biggest challenge is basically rebuilding this country. It's been decimated by the conflict here. There are cities that will require billions of dollars in investment just to get basic services up and running. And beyond that, there will have to be some kind of reconciliation between the different factions. Let us not forget this was a civil war that pitted Libyans against Libyans and those wounds are still not healed.

SIMON: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Tripoli. Thanks so much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.