This post has been updated. See note below for details.
REPORTING FROM BEIRUT — The macabre and divisive drama about the decomposing remains of Moammar Kadafi appears to have come to a conclusion.
Reports out of Libya indicate that Kadafi’s body was buried at dawn Tuesday in a secret location. Also reportedly buried were the remains of his son, Mutassim, and a former chief military aide, Abu Bakr Yunis.
According to international news reports, the bodies were washed and an Islamic ceremony was conducted in front of relatives and local political and military authorities.
[Updated, 7:48 a.m., Oct. 25: The burials came amid reports that another of Kadafi’s sons — his one-time heir apparent, Seif Islam Kadafi — was heading for the nation of Niger just south of Libya. Rissa ag Boula, an advisor to Niger's president and an elected official in the northern Niger town of Agadez, told Associated Press that he was in touch with ethnic Tuaregs who are helping guide the younger Kadafi through southern Libya to Niger.
“If he comes here, the government will accept him, but the government will also need to respect its international obligations,” Boula said, noting that Seif Islam is wanted by the International Criminal Court. Niger has said it will turn over members of Kadafi’s regime wanted by the court.
The body of the senior Kadafi had been on public display inside a vegetable cold-storage locker in the coastal city of Misurata. The bodies of Mutassim and the leader’s former aide were later laid down next to Kadafi’s.]
Images of the gruesome spectacle of Libyans posing alongside the gradually decomposing bodies were broadcast worldwide, drawing both morbid interest and revulsion. Many Libyans came from miles to view the remains and record the moment with photos and video of the corpse of the man who ruled Libya for more than four decades.
Delaying the decision on the ultimate disposal of the corpses were reported disagreements between officials in Misurata and authorities of Libya’s transitional leadership in Tripoli, the capital. Libya’s new rulers didn’t want Kadafi's burial place to become a shrine for ex-supporters or a rallying point for potential pro-Kadafi insurgents. Kadafi’s family demanded that the remains be turned over to tribal kin in his hometown, Surt.
All three were reported captured alive Thursday in Surt as the city was overrun by revolutionary fighters after weeks of intense battles. How the three died remains a matter of controversy.
Libyan authorities in Tripoli say Kadafi likely died in crossfire during the heated last morning of the battle for Surt. Others say the evidence indicates Kadafi was executed with a bullet to the his head while he was a prisoner. Amateur video showed fighters manhandling and shouting at the bloodied, dazed Kadafi after his capture.
Succumbing to international pressure, authorities have vowed to investigate the matter.
— Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: Libyans gather around the body of Moammar Kadafi in a cold-storage locker in Misurata. Credit: Saad Shalash / Reuters