* Arguments over disposal of body held in market cold store
* Reuters reporter sees body with bullet in side of head
* New leaders, Western backers hail dawn of new Libya
* Challenge now to impose order on array of armed groups (Adds delayed
liberation date, NATO comment, details, edits)
By Rania El Gamal
MISRATA, Libya, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi's body lay 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 seen
by Reuters in Misrata bore other marks of the violent end to a violent life,
still being broadcast to the world a day later on looping snatches of gory
The interim prime minister offered a tale of "crossfire" to explain the
fallen strongman's death after he was dragged, still alive, from a storm
drain in his home town of Sirte. But seeing him being beaten, while
demanding legal rights, to the sound of gunfire, many assume he was simply
Gaddafi's wife, who found refuge in neighbouring Algeria while her husband
and several sons kept their word to fight to the death, was reported to have
demanded an inquiry from the United Nations. The U.N. 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, and disquiet among 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 the 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". NATO was expected to
agree on Friday to start winding down its seven-month air campaign over
But regional and other rivalries have been holding up the disposal of the
corpse of Gaddafi, who was seized by fighters on Thursday, and a formal
declaration of Libya's "liberation".
"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, Sirte, or somewhere else," one senior NTC official told
Others said talks were under way with members of Gaddafi's tribe to dispose
of him in secret, avoiding creating a shrine.
In Misrata, a local commander, Addul-Salam Eleiwa, showed off the body,
torso bare, on a mattress inside a metal-lined cold-store by a market. He
said: "He will get his rights, like any Muslim. His body will be washed and
treated with dignity. I expect he will be buried in a Muslim cemetery within
But amid the rumour and counter-rumour swirling between Sirte, Gaddafi's
last bastion, and Misrata, whose siege at his hands made it a symbol of
resistance, nothing was certain.
Interim oil minister Ali Tarhouni said he urged colleagues to hold off
burying Gaddafi for several days. Dozens of people, many with cellphone
cameras, filed in to see that he was dead.
"There's something in our hearts we want to get out," said Abdullah
al-Suweisi, 30, as he waited. "It is the injustice of 40 years. There is
hatred inside. We want to see him."
In a small triumph for those who were inspired by Arab Spring uprisings
elsewhere to launch the rebellion in February in Benghazi, the eastern city
was chosen as the venue for NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil to announce
that the whole country was liberated. But the planned announcement was
delayed from Saturday to Sunday.
That will set a clock ticking on a tentative timetable for a transitional
government and for drafting a constitution, under which full elections
would, Libyans hope, take place within a year or two.
There has been tension between the easterners and leaders from Misrata,
Tripoli and other western cities, who take credit for overrunning the
capital in August and complain they are under-represented in an interim
government which has yet to move fully to Tripoli. Under the post-liberation
plan, that is supposed to happen within weeks, though some in Benghazi, home
to much of the oil industry, are keen to decentralise power.
RISKS OF DIVISION
As shown by the delay over burying Gaddafi, differences of opinion in a
country that spent 42 years obeying the whims of one man take time to work
out - time that worries some observers in light of the heavy weaponry that
abounds in Libya.
The uncertain whereabouts of Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's son and heir-apparent,
believed by NTC officials to have escaped from besieged Sirte and be heading
for a southern border, may also distract from the process of switching from
war to peace.
And without the glue of hatred for Gaddafi and his clan, some fear a descent
into the kind of strife that bedevils Iraq after Saddam Hussein, even if
Libya lacks its sectarian divide. Optimists point to how, in two months of
controlling Tripoli, the Libyan factions have argued but, so far, not
"Can an inclusive, effective national government be formed? Yes, if factions
can avoid fighting," Jon Marks, chairman of Britain's Cross Border
Information consultancy said. "So it's all about the politics, and the
$64,000 question is whether the new polity can retain the overall consensual
feel you had during the revolution, or whether dangerous splits will occur."
Long-standing regional rivalries in a country only put together under
Italian colonial rule in the 1930s are part of a complex of tribal, ethnic
and other divisions which Gaddafi exploited at times to control the thinly
populated country of six million and its substantial oil and gas resources.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received first news of Gaddafi's
capture in a phone message. "Wow," she exclaimed, looking into a phone
handed to her by an aide in Kabul.
Speaking in Islamabad on Friday, Clinton said Gaddafi's death marked the
start of a "new era" for the Libyan people.
Nabil Elaraby, chief of the Arab League which in March had given NATO
actions a regional seal of approval, called for unity: Libyans should
"overcome the wounds of the past, look towards the future away from
sentiments of hatred and revenge."
China echoed calls for unity. It said there was a need for "an inclusive
Russia, which like China was cool to NATO's help for the rebels, may share
its concern for investments after a senior Libyan oil official said
representatives of Moscow's Gazprom had been summoned to Tripoli to explain
what he called breaches of commitments made in contracts it signed under
Companies from France and Britain, which drove the initial Western support
for the rebellion, hope that will stand them in good stead as Libya's new
leaders start allocating new deals.
Among those disappointed by his death were advocates of the International
Criminal Court, which had hoped to try him for crimes against humanity, and
relatives of those who died in the Lockerbie airliner bombing, still looking
for answers more than two decades after a presumed Libyan bomb downed the
"Investigating whether or not his death was a war crime might be unpopular,"
Amnesty International's Claudio Cordone said. "However, the NTC must apply
the same standards to all, affording justice even to those who categorically
denied it to others. Bringing Gaddafi to trial would have finally given his
numerous victims answers as to why they were targeted and an opportunity for
justice and reparations."
As his gory end invigorated new protests in Syria, where President Bashar
al-Assad has tried to crush protests against his family's similarly lengthy
monopoly on power, the precise circumstances of his death remained unclear.
Looking dazed with blood streaming down his face, Gaddafi can be heard in
one video saying "God forbids this".
"This is for Misrata you dog," said one man hitting him.
"Do you know right from wrong?" Gaddafi says.
"Shut up you dog," someone replies as more blows rain down.
"Keep him alive, keep him alive!" someone shouts.
Interviews conducted separately with those who say they were present offer a
picture Gaddafi's final hours, and with the video footage, give clues about
his last stand and demise.
"He called us rats, but look where we found him," said Ahmed al-Sahati, a
27-year-old fighter, standing next to two stinking drainage pipes under a
six-lane highway near Sirte.
Elsewhere trucks and cars, probably from among a convoy of about 75 targeted
by French NATO jets, lay burnt out. Many of their occupants sat charred
inside, others, dozens of them, strewn dead across nearby fields as the
diehards who had held out in Sirte for weeks raced for a getaway in all
Government fighter Saleem Bakeer recounted to Reuters a version of Gaddafi's
capture that was corroborated by others, including one man who had what he
said was Gaddafi's golden pistol: "At first we fired at them with
anti-aircraft guns, but it was no use," said Bakeer, being feted by comrades
near the road and the drainage pipes. "Then we went in on foot."
After confronting pro-Gaddafi gunmen who said their "master" was wounded and
inside, he went on: "We went in and brought Gaddafi out. He was saying
'what's wrong? What's wrong? What's going on?'." He said Gaddafi was then
put in a vehicle.
Mahmoud Hamada, a fighter clearly recognisable from the films as being
present at the time, said Gaddafi was already barely able to walk but alive
when put into an ambulance.
The doubts befitted a man who retained an aura of mystery in the desert as
he tormented Western powers by sponsoring bomb-makers from the IRA to the
PLO then later embraced Tony Blair, Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio
Berlusconi in return for investment in Libya's oil and gas fields.
Some NTC officials insisted the fighters had tried to get Gaddafi to
hospital but he was hit in crossfire. But another, speaking to Reuters
anonymously, said simply: "They beat him very harshly and then they killed
him. This is a war." (Additional reporting by Taha Zargoun and Tim Gaynor in
Sirte, Barry Malone, Yasmine Saleh and Jessica Donati in Tripoli, Brian
Rohan in; Benghazi, Jon Hemming and Andrew Hammond in Tunis, Samia Nakhoul
in Amman, Christian Lowe in Algiers, Shaimaa Fayed in Cairo, Sami Aboudi in
Dubai and Andrew Quinn in Islamabad; Writing by Alastair Macdonald)
C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
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Received on Fri Oct 21 2011 - 18:56:55 EDT