As Tunisia—the nation that set off a string of revolutions—holds landmark democratic elections, Libyans officially declared their freedom after the death of Gaddafi. Plus, Andrew Roberts on how dictators die.
Libya Declares Its Freedom
After 42 years of oppressive rule by the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya declared Sunday the liberation of the nation to cheers from crowds in Benghazi, where the uprising began, in February. Gaddafi met a violent death Thursday. "This is the humiliating end that God wanted to set as example for anyone who practices the worst forms of injustice ... against their people," Salah el Ghazal, an official, said during the ceremonies, marking the beginning of the country's transition to democracy.
Meanwhile, the first true multiparty national election in Tunisia since the ouster of strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January is underway. It's a historic democratic poll, and voters will choose an assembly that will govern the country while also writing a new constitution. Concerns about religion and women's rights will be tested as liberals are facing an expected defeat by moderate Islamist party Ennahda.
Shortly after denying the United Nations or human rights groups to examine the body of Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan fighters who captured the dictator allowed forensic doctors to carry out an autopsy Sunday in the city of Misrata, one of the doctors told Reuters. "We worked all through the night. We just got done," the doctor said on condition of anonymity. "He died because of a gunshot wound. It is obvious." He also said that the findings will be made public. "Nothing will be hidden." The work was done at a morgue, and the body was brought back to a freezer at an old shopping center, where it has been on public display.
The family of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi demanded the chance to view his body—which is in a mall meat locker for the public to view. Meanwhile, confusion remained on Friday over the whereabouts of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, rumored to be Gaddafi’s favorite and most well-known son. A recent report by a senior military commander claims Saif fled Sirte and is en route to neighboring Niger, where his brother is rumored to be hiding. In the ensuing chaos after his father was killed early Thursday, there were conflicting reports of Saif being killed, held in custody, or hospitalized. Libya’s new government worries that if Saif is alive, he could be a symbol of a possible insurgency. Two of Gaddafi’s children are believed to be dead, while three others, including his daughter, have fled to Algeria.
Though there are conflicting reports, details of Gaddafi's final moments have emerged. The Associated Press reports that after he was dragged out of a drain pipe, Gaddafi raised his hands and said, "Don't kill me, my sons." Upon being captured, Libyan forces tried to load him into a vehicle when loyalists forces engaged in a gun fight. At this point, Gaddafi was wounded in his right arm. As more shots rang out, the former dictator was struck in the head (possibly by his own bodyguards) and then died moments before reaching a hospital, said Libya's transitional prime minister.
Al Jazeera aired footage of Gaddafi—dripping blood but seemingly alive—being dragged around Sirte. Another video showed Gaddafi with his eyes open and what looks like a gunshot wound to his head, as Libyan fighters fired gunshots into the air. In a third shocking video on YouTube, fighters posed for pictures with Gaddafi’s corpse, positioning the lifeless body by pulling his hair. Meanwhile, after Secretary of State Clinton heard of the former dictator’s demise, she joked with a reporter. “We came, we saw, he died,” she said, referring to her trip to Tripoli earlier this week.
President Obama confirmed in a press conference Thursday that former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi had been killed. “Today we can definitely say the Gaddafi regime has come to an end—the last major regime strongholds have fallen,” he said. Obama praised the U.S.’s “extraordinary support” of the former Libyan rebels, and he also said the U.S. will continue to be their “partner” while also acknowledging there will be “difficult days” ahead in the “long and winding road to democracy.” Obama called for remembrance of those lost in the alleged terrorist acts by Gaddafi, as well as the Libyan people who have died at his hands. He also warned iron-fist rulers of the Middle East that their reign will eventually come to an end.
The Daily Beast Reports:
Bush Team Hails Gaddafi’s Death
by Eli Lake
Don't Cheer Gaddafi's Death Yet
by Babak Dehghanpisheh
Lockerbie Families Rejoice at Gaddafi Death
by Eli Lake
Which Middle East Leader Is Going Down Next?
by Bruce Riedel
Good Riddance, Gaddafi!
by Richard Miniter
My Walk Through the Valley of Death
by Janine di Giovanni
When Condi Met Gaddafi
by Condoleeza Rice
Should Obama Get Credit?
by Eleanor Clift and Daniel Stone
Gaddafi’s Nurse: I’m in Mourning
by Anna Nemtsova
Gaddafi’s Hometown Falls
All of Libya’s major cities belong to the new government after its troops seized Sirte on Thursday morning. Troops loyal to Gaddafi had been holding out in his hometown for weeks, but government troops cleared them in a 90-minute push. "There are no Gaddafi forces anymore," said one government colonel. "We are now chasing his fighters who are trying to run away." Gaddafi loyalists’ last refuge, now, is the town of Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli.