Misrata, Libya Moammar Gadhafi’s blood-streaked body was on display in a commercial freezer at a shopping center Friday as Libyan authorities argued about what to do with his remains and questions deepened over official accounts of the longtime dictator’s death. New video emerged of his violent, chaotic last moments, showing fighters beating him as they drag him away.
Nearly every aspect of Thursday’s killing of Gadhafi was mired in confusion, a sign of the difficulties ahead for Libya. Its new rulers are disorganized, its people embittered and divided. But the ruling National Transitional Council said it would declare the country’s liberation Saturday, the starting point for a timetable that calls for a new interim government within a month and elections within eight months.
The top U.N. rights chief raised concerns that Gadhafi may have been shot to death after being captured alive. The fate of his body seemed tied up in squabbles among Libya’s factions, as fighters from Misrata — a city brutally besieged by Gadhafi’s forces during the civil war — seemed to claim ownership of it, forcing the delay of a planned burial Friday.
Also muddled was the fate of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the only Gadhafi son who stayed in Libya and reportedly survived after his father’s Aug. 21 ouster. It appeared Friday that he was still at large: some government ministers had said he was wounded and in custody in a hospital in the city of Zlitan, but a military official at the hospital, Hakim al-Kisher, denied he was there.
In Misrata, residents crowded into long lines to get a chance to view the body of Gadhafi, which was laid out on a mattress on the floor of an emptied-out vegetable and onions freezer at a local shopping center.
The body had apparently been stowed in the freezer in an attempt to keep it out of the public eye, but once the location was known, that intention was swept away in the overwhelming desire of residents to see the man they so deeply despised.
Men, women and children filed in to take their picture with the body. The site’s guards had even organized separate visiting hours for families and single men.
“We want to see the dog,” some chanted.
Gadhafi’s 69-year-old body was stripped to the waist, his torso and arms streaked with dried blood. Bullet wounds in the chest, abdomen and left side of the head were visible.
The bloody siege of Misrata over the summer instilled a particularly virulent hatred of Gadhafi there — a hatred now mixed with pride because he was captured and killed by fighters from the city.
New video posted on Facebook showed revolutionary fighters dragging a confused-looking Gadhafi up the hill to their vehicles after his capture and less than an hour before he was killed. The young men scream “Moammar, you dog!” as their former leader wipes at blood covering the left side of his head, neck and left shoulder.
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!”
In Tripoli, joy over Gadhafi’s end spilled into a second day as thousands converged on central Martyrs’ Square for Friday prayers and celebrations. Men danced and hoisted the country’s new red-green-and-black flag.
“It’s the start of a new era that everybody hopes will bring security and freedom,” said Tarek Othman, a computer specialist. “I hope democracy is the path we take so all of these Libyans who have sacrificed will really feel free.”