October 24th, 2011
01:39 PM ET

If he was captured alive, how did Gadhafi end up dead?

The death of longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi helped solidify the National Transitional Council's power in Libya, but there is still a large amount of uncertainty about the circumstances surrounding how he was killed, what happened during the last battle in Sirte and what it all means for the future of Libya.

When Gadhafi's death was first reported, it came with a large amount of uncertainty.

Multiple scenarios emerged as to how the last minutes of his life played out, thanks to cell phone pictures and videos, many later uploaded to YouTube. Then, there were statements from officials from NATO, from within Libya and from the National Transitional Council about what happened.

And as the country prepares to move on, the international community searches for answers as to exactly what happened in the minutes after Gadhafi was captured.

What exactly do we know about how Gadhafi was captured?

We know that the events leading to Gadhafi's death began about 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Libya, according to a NATO official, when a convoy of loyalists made a break from a part of Sirte and headed west, trying to get out of the city.

Gadhafi had long been suspected of being holed up in his hometown, which was one of the only remaining regime strongholds.

U.S. drones and French fighter jets struck the convoy, splitting it up and forcing the loyalists to scurry away on foot.  A NATO official said Gadhafi was in that convoy, though he was not hit.

Gadhafi fled with a handful of his men. The revolutionaries found him hiding in a drainage pipe.

Mahmoud Jibril, Executive Chairman of Libya's National Transitional Council, said that after Gadhafi was found, a gunbattle erupted between transitional council fighters and Gadhafi's supporters. His captors attempted to load him into a vehicle, leaving Gadhafi with a wound to his right arm.

Video out of Sirte showed what appeared to be a heavily wounded and bloodied Gadhafi being held up by NTC fighters as they took him toward a vehicle.

What happened after that is more murky.

What do we know about how Gadhafi died?

When Gadhafi was captured, he was, by all accounts, alive.

Several videos from the scene showed Gadhafi looking wounded and confused but alive and even walking as he was pulled toward a vehicle.

Jibril said Gadhafi was shot in the arm as he was dragged into a vehicle headed to Misrata, a two-and-a-half-hour trip.

But the autopsy report from the chief pathologist said Gadhafi died of a gunshot wound to the head.

So how did Gadhafi go from being captured to being shot in the head?

It depends on whom you ask, and there are many details that simply are not confirmed.

Leaders of Libya's interim government have said Gadhafi was killed in that crossfire after fighters captured him in Sirte.

But videos and pictures coming out of Libya lead to more questions about what shot may have killed the leader.

Some members of the international community had hoped there would be some more clarity from the autopsy report.  But the doctor who conducted the examination would not disclose whether findings revealed that he suffered the wound in crossfire or at close range, a key question that has prompted the United Nations and international human rights groups to call for an investigation into the final moments of Gadhafi's life.

Jibril, the transitional prime minister, said that as the vehicle carrying the wounded Gadhafi drove away, more shooting erupted, and that was when Gadhafi was shot in the head.

Mohammed Sayeh, a senior member of the council, said that in the hail of gunfire, Gadhafi was shot in the feet and then in his head.

"I cannot tell you whether it was from far or near, but it was unintentional," he said. "No one decided to kill him or slaughter him. It would have been much better for us Libyans and the whole universe to capture him and take him to a court."

But in a new video from Reuters, a man standing next to an ambulance claims he killed the ousted leader, and another man claims he saw it happen. The group surrounding him applauds and hugs the self-described gunman.

There were no more specifics given about the fatal shot.

All that seems to be clear is that Gadhafi did not have a head wound when he was taken from the drainage pipe.

But when his body showed up at a hospital in Misrata, videos and photos showed a clear bullet wound.

And it is that disparity that has prompted calls for an investigation into the death. However, for some Libyans, how he died isn't so much the issue, Time.com reports. For them, knowing that he is gone is all that matters.

What was NATO's involvement in Gadhafi's death?

We know that NATO had eyes on Sirte, including aerial surveillance in areas where it had seen an uptick in conflict. Gadhafi's forces had been boxed into a particular area in Sirte, NATO said. When a large convoy left that area, the drones and fighter jets struck. It's also the moment when Gadhafi is believed to have fled.

For weeks, the revolutionaries had been on the forefront of the battle for Sirte, struggling to wrest control of the coastal city from the last vestiges of the old regime in brutal urban warfare. Thursday, when the fight was finally won, they could finally claim liberation for their nation.

In the wake of the death, and because of the strike on the convoy, NATO re-emphasized what it has been saying since the mission in Libya began: There was a mission to take out Gadhafi's regime and forces but not to assassinate him.

NATO launched an air and missile campaign in March, when pro-Gadhafi forces were advancing on a rebel stronghold in Libya, under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians. NATO's efforts have included strike sorties and airstrikes targeting Gadhafi's military resources.

NATO began to scale back operations in Libya after Gadhafi's death, with the preliminary end date of October 31, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday.

"We did what we said we would do, and now is the time for the Libyan people to take their destiny into their own hands," Rasmussen said.

So, what's next for Libya?

A long road stretches ahead for the Libyan people.

In addition to the investigation into Gadhafi's own death, human rights groups are calling for investigations after they discovered the bodies of 53 people, believed to be Gadhafi supporters, in a hotel that was under the control of anti-Gadhafi fighters.

"We found 53 decomposing bodies, apparently (Gadhafi) supporters, at an abandoned hotel in Sirte, and some had their hands bound behind their backs when they were shot," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch.

Officials with the National Transitional Council were not immediately available for comment. The report comes amid growing concerns about extrajudicial killings under Libya's new leadership.

As Libya closes one chapter in their storied history, it will now begin to try to shore up its future, including answering the concerns about extrajudicial killings.

It will also have to make the transition from a war-torn country into a new society and building or creating all of the foundations to do so.

"The formal timetable laid down by the NTC begins with the declaration of liberation," said Ian Martin, the U.N. special representative for Libya. "The clock begins ticking, and we'll be working with them to try to make their commitments feasible in practice."

That will begin with elections, which leaders have said will take place in the current months. The first vote will be for a National Congress that will draft a constitution. After that, parliamentary and presidential elections will be held, National Transitional Council leaders said.

There will also be the issue of what will happen with what some analysts believe to be as much as $150 billion in frozen assets that had been available to the Gadhafi regime around the world. Even before Gadhafi's death, the U.S. Treasury Department had started thawing $37 billion worth such assets to make them available to the new government in Tripoli.

And then there will be the state of Libya's oil production. It is estimated that 350,000 barrels of oil per day are being produced by Libya.

World leaders offered the new Libya words of encouragement tempered with caution.

"In the coming days, we will witness scenes of celebration, as well as grief for those who lost so much," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "Yet let us recognize, immediately, that this is only the end of the beginning. The road ahead for Libya and its people will be difficult and full of challenges."

soundoff (1,144 Responses)
  1. Nelliebelle

    Who cares – this individual cared for no one but himself – he even killed (had killed) his own countrymen. The man who shot him should be congratulated – not ostracized or even "convicted" of any type of crime. This so-called "leader" got what he deserved.

    October 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Russia

    All Russia supports Kaddafi. We for Kaddafi. You don't win Libya never!!!

    October 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. D4732

    IF he was caputred alive how he end up dead? Bullet.

    October 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. andyp

    Oh, we didnt mean to kill him.. we just bombed his convoy with jets and drones.. but seriously it was an accident. lol
    I wonder what leader the US is going to assassinate next?

    October 26, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheepleherder

      Anyone we FEEL LIKE!!

      November 1, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Russia

    Sirt – a city-phantom! Corpses of its inhabitants – under ruins of the houses which have been destroyed by bombing by the NATO. Nobody cleans them: there is nobody! The Whole world is rescued by a Turk, the houses which have appeared under ruins as a result of earthquake. And that that the whole city of Sirt under NATO bombs was lost, nobody speaks also anybody to it does not help. Over a city – a terrible putrid smell. Sad the first (!!!) the reporting has shown the French channel FRANCE 24. The reporter should tell that the city is transformed into ruins by NATO bombardments that survived few inhabitants show places of numerous communal graves …

    In a city some tens thousand inhabitants were lost! Tens thousand!

    October 26, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Reenie

    I have a gut feeling CNN answered their own question in the article. Pretty sure everyone can stop replying with "shot to the head" and give me something more entertaining to read.

    October 26, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dennis

    He was murdered

    October 26, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheepleherder

      You don't "murder" a psychopath who HAS murdered 10's of thousands of people. You dispatch it, just like you would for any rabid animal.

      November 1, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Juba

    Here that for you waits in Libya!

    October 27, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Shada

    This is all about oil and black gold in Libya,they just had to get rid of him so they can steal from Libya.

    October 31, 2011 at 5:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Sheepleherder

      You're joking, right. If anyone wanted Libya's oil, all they had to do was pay Gaddafi and he would steal it for them. He and his family have been stealing the oil for decades!

      November 1, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ghost of Pan Am 103

    what comes around goes around...should have thrown his a$$ out of a helicopter

    November 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ledtvaanbiedingen

    Bye bye Gadhafi

    Greet ledtvaanbiedingen

    November 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
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