REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- Libya’s new rulers plan to declare their embattled nation “liberated” Sunday, a move that will trigger a timetable for elections and the writing of a constitution for the North African nation, according to reports from Tripoli.
Moammar Kadafi was ousted from power almost two months ago, but Libya’s transitional rulers have long insisted that the official pronouncement of “liberation” would have to wait until pro-Kadafi forces were cleared from several cities, especially the former leader’s hometown, the coastal city of Surt.
Revolutionary fighters overran Surt on Thursday and also captured Kadafi, who later died under circumstances that remain murky. The official story is that he died of gunshot wounds sustained in battle or in a cross-fire. Others say he was executed by angry rebels.
Telephone video footage of Kadafi as a bloodied prisoner — and later as a battered corpse — went viral across the globe, prompting some to condemn a possible extrajudicial execution. The United Nations has demanded an investigation.
But Libyans celebrated the strongman’s death, which put a definitive end to an era that had defined Libya since 1969. There was no outcry in Libya for an inquiry into the demise of the flamboyant colonel who wielded absolute power.
Kadafi’s body remained on public display Saturday in a cold-storage locker in the port city of Misurata, which suffered heavy casualties during the war to oust the leader.
The body of Mutassim Kadafi, the strongman's son and a military commander in the former regime, was also in Misurata. Like his father, Mutassim was captured Thursday in Surt. And, like his father, he was reported to have been initially captured alive. In one video, Mutassim, or someone closely resembling him, is seen smoking a cigarette in captivity. Later video from Misurata shows his body. How he died remained unclear.
Another son, Seif Islam Kadafi, who sought to be his father’s successor, was reported to have escaped capture.
Exiled Kadafi relatives, now in Algeria, issued a demand Saturday that the bodies be turned over to tribal kin in Surt, according to a broadcast on a pro-Kadafi television station operating out of Syria. But Libya’s new rulers are keen that Kadafi’s ultimate resting place does not become a shrine or a rallying point for die-hard supporters.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: A Libyan man gestures in front of graffiti reading, "The greatest Crazy of the World" in Tripoli, Libya, on Friday . Credit: Francois Mori/Associated Press