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Confusion over Gaddafi’s burial

By THE NATION
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The burial of slain Muammar Gaddafi has been delayed until the circumstances of his death can be further examined and a decision is made about where to bury the body, Libyan officials said yesterday, just as the U.N. human rights office called for an investigation into his death.

The transitional leadership had said it would bury the dictator yesterday in accordance with Islamic tradition. Bloody images of Gaddafi's last moments in the hands of angry captors have raised questions over his treatment minutes before his death. One son, Muatassim, was also killed but the fate of Gaddafi's one-time heir apparent Saif al-Islam was unclear.

“They are not agreeing on the place of burial. Under Islam, he should have been buried quickly but they have to reach an agreement whether he is to be buried in Misrata, or somewhere else" a senior NTC official explained

Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagi said Seif al-Islam was wounded and being held in a hospital in the city of Zlitan. But Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam on Friday that the son's whereabouts were uncertain.

Shammam said Gaddafi's body was still in Misrata, where it was taken after he was found in his hometown of Sirte, and revolutionary forces were discussing where it should be inferred.

Thursday's death of Gaddafi, two months after he was driven from power and into hiding, decisively buries the nearly 42-year regime that had turned the oil-rich country into an international pariah and his own personal fiefdom.

It also thrusts Libya into a new age in which its transitional leaders must overcome deep divisions and rebuild nearly all its institutions from scratch to achieve dreams of democracy.

Many Libyans awoke after a night of jubilant celebration and celebratory gunfire with hope for the future but also concern that their new rulers might repeat the mistakes of the past.

Khaled Almslaty, a 42-year-old clothing vendor in Tripoli, said he wished Gaddafi 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."

Bloody images of Gaddafi's last moments also cast a shadow over the celebrations, raising questions over how exactly he died. Video on Arab television stations showed a crowd of fighters shoving and pulling the goateed, balding Gaddafi, with blood splattered on his face and soaking his shirt.

Gaddafi struggled against them, stumbling and shouting as the fighters pushed him onto the hood of a pickup truck. One fighter held him down, pressing on his thigh with a pair of shoes in a show of contempt.

Fighters propped him on the hood as they drove for several moments, apparently to parade him around in victory.

"We want him alive. We want him alive," one man shouted before Gaddafi was dragged off the hood, some fighters pulling his hair, toward an ambulance.

Later footage showed fighters rolling Gaddafi's lifeless body over on the pavement, stripped to the waist and a pool of blood under his head. His body was then paraded on a car through Misrata, a nearby city that suffered a brutal siege by regime forces during the eight-month civil war that eventually ousted Gaddafi. Crowds in the streets cheered, "The blood of martyrs will not go in vain."

Gaddafi’s body is dumped in an old meat store on Friday as arguments over a burial, and his killing after being captured, dogged efforts by Libya’s new leaders to make a formal start on a new era of democracy.

With a bullet wound visible through the familiar curly hair, the corpse shown to newsmen in Misrata bore other marks of the violent end to a violent life that was being broadcast to the world in snatches of grainy, gory cellphone video.

The interim prime minister offered a tale of “crossfire” to explain the fallen strongman’s death after he was dragged, very much alive, from a highway drainage culvert. But with footage showing him being beaten, while demanding legal rights, to the sound of gunfire, many assume he was simply summarily shot.

Gaddafi’s wife, Aisha, who found refuge in neighbouring Algeria while her husband and several sons kept their word to fight to the death, demanded an inquiry from the United Nations. Its human rights arm said one was merited.

Controversy over the final moments of a man who once held the world in thrall with a mixture of eccentricity and thuggery raised questions about the ability of Libya’s National Transitional Council to control the men with guns, as well as discomfort for Western allies about respect for human rights among those who claimed to be fighting for just those ideals.

The body appeared to be the latest object of wrangling among the factions of fighters who overthrew him — along with control of weapons, of ministries and of Libya’s oil wealth.

Libyans, and the Western allies who backed their revolt that ended Gaddafi’s 42-year rule two months ago, have indicated their impatience to begin what the United States declared was a democratic “new era.”