In death, Gaddafi still divides Libyans

Arguments over disposal of body held in market cold store; formal "liberation" expected to be declared in Benghazi.

By REUTERS
October 21, 2011 12:22
2 minute read.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Muammar Gaddafi 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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MISRATA - After the anarchic drama of their capture and killing of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's new leaders argued over his body on Friday, while Libyans, and the world, awaited the formal launch of a new era of democracy.

A Reuters journalist saw the corpse, a bullet wound in the side of the head, lying in a cold store in an old market area of Misrata, where it was taken after the 69-year-old fugitive strongman was killed in his hometown of Sirte on Thursday.

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A local commander said it would be buried with dignity and full Muslim rites within 24 hours, but the site was not yet determined. A senior official of the National Transitional Council told Reuters there was division in the upper reaches of the NTC over where Gaddafi's final resting place should be.

"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," said the senior official, speaking anonymously.

With expectations running high that a formal declaration of "liberation" could come by Saturday, setting a clock ticking on a timeline to a new constitution and elections, the interim oil minister said he was urging colleagues to keep the body chilled for some days to ensure there was no doubt Gaddafi was dead.

Arguments over where and how to dispose of the remains, as well as those of Gaddafi's son Mo'tassim, followed surprise and confusion on Thursday over their capture and deaths and serve as a stark reminder of the challenges facing any new administration in imposing order on a country awash with guns and armed groups.

Another son of Gaddafi, heir apparent Saif al-Islam, was said by NTC officials to be still at large around Sirte, but his prospects of mounting a serious challenge were over.

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Fighters from Misrata, Libya's third city whose siege at the hands of Gaddafi's forces became a symbol of revolt, were quick to take the bodies to their home ground and have been among the most prominent of groups pushing for a bigger say in government.

A declaration of liberation from 42 years of one-man rule would also, under present plans, formalise a move of the government from Benghazi, the second city and home of the first rebellion, in the far east, to Tripoli, the capital, in the west. But NTC officials were still unclear as to whether the declaration itself would be made in Benghazi or Tripoli.

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