Gadhafi body stashed in shopping center freezer
MISRATA, Libya (AP) — Moammar Gadhafi’s blood-streaked body was stashed in a commercial freezer at a shopping center Friday as Libyans tried to keep it out of the public eye and away from crowds as they figure out where and when to bury the hated leader.
An AP correspondent saw the body at the shopping center in the coastal city of Misrata, home of the fighters who killed the ousted leader a day earlier in his hometown of Sirte.
The body, stripped to the waist and wearing beige trousers, was laid on a bloodied mattress on the floor of an emptied-out room-sized freezer where restaurants and stores in the center normally keep perishables. A bullet hole was visible on the left side of his head — with the bullet still lodged in his head, according to the presiding doctor — and in the center of his chest and stomach. His hair was matted and dried blood streaks his arms and head.
Outside the shopping center, hundreds of civilians from Misrata jostled to get inside for a peek at the body, shouting “God is great” and “We want to see the dog.”
The makeshift provisions for the corpse — at one point it was kept in a private house on Thursday — reflected the disorganization and confusion that has surrounded Gadhafi’s death. His burial had been planned for Friday, in accordance with Islamic traditions calling for quick interrment. But the interim government delayed it, saying the circumstances of his death still had to be determined. Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam also said authorities are “debating right now what the best place is to bury him.”
Gadhafi was captured wounded but alive, and there have been contradictory accounts of how he received his fatal wounds — raising the question whether he was shot to death while in custody, something Libyan officials have denied.
New images surfaced of the 69-year-old Gadhafi being taunted and beaten by the fighters who captured him. By authorites’ account, at the time the video was taken, Gadhafi would have already suffered the wounds that would kill him about a half-hour later — shots to the head, chest and belly. In the video, there is blood on Gadhafi’s head, but none visible on his chest or belly, and he is talking and uprising.
International rights groups called for an investigation into his death.
“More details are needed to ascertain whether he was killed in some form of fighting or was executed after his capture,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling the images of Gadhafi’s last moments very disturbing.
One of Gadhafi’s sons, Muatassim, was also killed in the Sirte, but the fate of Gadhafi’s one-time heir apparent Seif al-Islam was unclear. Some Libyan officials said he had been wounded and was being held in a hospital in Zlitan. But Shammam said Friday that Seif al-Islam’s whereabouts were not confirmed, leaving open the possibility he escaped.
Many Libyans awoke after a night of jubilant celebration and celebratory gunfire with hope for the future but also concern that their new rulers, the National Transitional Council, might repeat the mistakes of the past.
Khaled Almslaty, a 42-year-old clothing vendor in Tripoli, said he wished Gadhafi had been captured alive.
“But I believe he got what he deserved because if we prosecuted him for the smallest of his crimes, he would be punished by death,” he said. “Now we hope the NTC will accelerate the formation of a new government and ... won’t waste time on irrelevant conflicts and competing for authority and positions.”
Thousands of people converged for Friday prayers on Martrys’ Square, formerly known as Green Square and the site from which Gadhafi made many defiant speeches trying to rally support as the uprising against him turned into a civil war.
One group of men danced and hoisted the country’s new tricolor flag, chanting slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad, who also faces an uprising against his rule as part of the Arab Spring that has also seen the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia ousted.
“It’s your turn Bashar, zenga, zenga, dar, dar,” they chanted.
“Zenga, zenga, dar, dar” is Arabic for “alley by alley, house by house,” a phrase used by Gadhafi in his last months in power, referring to how his forces would hunt down those who rose up against him.
Women, who wore headscarves and prayed in a separate section, hoisted a banner that said, “It’s a new morning without the colonel,” using Gadhafi’s military designation.
Gadhafi was killed as revolutionary fighters overwhelmed him and his last die-hard loyalists in Sirte, capturing the city after a heavily fought, weeks-long siege. Exact details of his final hours remain unclear.
But according to most accounts from fighters on the ground and their commanders, Gadhafi was in a convoy trying to flee, when NATO airstrikes hit two of the vehicles. Then revolutionary forces moved in and clashed with the loyalists with Gadhafi for several hours. Gadhafi and his bodyguards fled their cars and took refuge in a nearby drainage tunnel. Fighters pursued and clashed with them, and in the end, Gadhafi emerged from tunnel and was grabbed by fighters.
New footage posted on Facebook shows the moments when Gadhafi was dragged by revolutionariy fighters up the hill to their vehicles. The young men beat the bloodied and confused-looking Gadhafi, screaming, “Moammar, you dog!”
Gadhafi gestures to the young men to be patient, and says “What’s going on?” as he wipes fresh blood from his temple and glances at his palm. A young fighter later is shown carrying a boot and screaming, “This is Moammar’s shoe! This is Moammar’s shoe! Victory! Victory!”
Information Minister Shammam said Friday that Gadhafi had already suffered his wounds when he was pulled from the tunnel, and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. “It seems like the bullet was a stray and it could have come from the revolutionaries or the loyalists,” Shammam said, echoing an account given by Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril the night before. “The problem is everyone around the event is giving his own story.”
By that account, Gadhafi would have a bullet imbedded in his head, another in his chest and a third near his belly button at the time the video footage was taken.
In the video, Gadhafi has blood on the side of his head, but he is upright, talking and has the strength to struggle back, and there is no blood on his chest or belly. At one point, his shirt is pulled up to his chest, but no belly wound is visible.
Shammam said that the NTC was expecting a report from Financial Minister Ali Tarhouni who was sent as an envoy to Misrata on Thursday.
Mohamed Sayeh, a senior NTC member, said representatives from the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court, which had indicted Gadhafi, would come to “go through the paperwork.”
The ICC did not issue any official comments about Gadhafi, but judges at the court would need official confirmation — most likely a DNA sample from the body — that Gadhafi is dead before they could formally withdraw his indictment.
Gadhafi, Seif al-Islam and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi have been charged with crimes against humanity for the brutal crackdown on dissent as the uprising against the regime began in mid-February and escalated into a civil war.
The governing National Transitional Council said interim leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil will formally declare liberation on Saturday in the eastern city of Benghazi, where the revolution began in mid-February. The NTC has said it will form a new interim government within a month of liberation and will hold elections within eight months.
Gamel reported from Tripoli. Associated Press writer Hadeel al-Shalchi in Cairo contributed to this report.