TRIPOLI, Libya â€” Fugitive Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi died Thursday from wounds sustained during capture near his hometown of Sirte, according to reports that were confirmed by Libyan transitional authorities and independent journalists.
Amateur video broadcast on TV channels showed Gadhafiâ€™s purported corpse: a man who appears to be the deposed leader lying in the street, stripped half-naked and splattered with blood. Bystanders, who are chanting, â€œGod is great!,â€ kicked him.
The 20 seconds of footage became instantly iconic for the Arab Spring protests: a despotic Middle Eastern ruler forced out of power after a popular uprising that turned into an armed rebellion. The image of Gadhafiâ€™s bloody face is sure to send chills among other besieged Middle Eastern rulers such as Syriaâ€™s Bashar Assad and Yemenâ€™s Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Members of the National Transitional Council, the interim authority, confirmed the death to journalists in Tripoli. An Al Jazeera reporter with revolutionary forces in Sirte said on air that fighters had shown him Gadhafiâ€™s body and belongings such as a shoe and a watch.
Many Libyans were shocked â€” as well as elated â€” at this ignominious ending for a larger-than-life figure who ruled them for 42 years. Tripoli, the capital, erupted in volleys of gunfire and nonstop horn honking as residents took to the streets in celebration.
â€œHe became very, very detached from the Libyan reality,â€ Youcef Bouandel, a Qatar-based international affairs professor, told Al Jazeera English. â€œHe saw himself as bigger than he was. He was Libya.â€
The circumstances of Gadhafiâ€™s death were still unclear Thursday afternoon. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, chairman of the transitional council, was expected to offer details at a news conference later in the day.
One account is that Gadhafi was wounded during a NATO strike as his convoy tried to escape Sirte, which fell to the former rebels on Thursday. Another is that he was discovered in a sewage hole, armed with two gold-plated guns. Neither of those reports could be independently verified.