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It was just after 7 am on Thursday, October 20, 2011 when I heard the news that Muammar Gaddafi had been killed by opposition troops in his hometown of Sirte, Libya.
Taking Sirte was to the last push for the revolution and the final victory for the National Transitional Council.
I was on my way to present as a keynote speaker at the International Conflict Resolution Day conference in Colorado Springs. As I sat in my car listening to the news, my first thought was one of disbelief. Could it really be true this time ?
We had heard stories in the past of his children being killed, which turned out to be false. But this time, I felt in my heart it was true. What I didn’t feel was joy like some Lockerbie family members. I heard one say she wanted to dance on his grave. What I felt was a bit more sober.
I know all about the pain of losing a loved one, as my own brother, Kenneth, was killed in the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
My first thought was maybe finally the Lockerbie families can move forward. Twenty four years is a very long time to keep fighting.
My second thought was more telling. How unfortunate that it had to come to this. Since the revolution in Libya began, Gaddafi had every opportunity to step down. Instead, he turned on his own people. Escalating his reign of terror, he began ordering his troops to rape woman and kill everyone who opposed him.
Mass graves were found of the countless people who had been murdered senselessly by Gaddafi and his regime. Having recently found their voice and tasted the liberation that freedom brings, his resistance just created more resolve in the people to continuing pressing forward until Libya was completely free from Gaddafi’s tyrannical rule. I had seen this resolve first hand when I spoke to a crowd of 100,000 people in Freedom Square in Benghazi, the day the International Court issued its arrest warrant for Gaddafi. Now, the Libyan people got their justice.
The journey doesn’t end here. This is just the beginning of the process of rebuilding. Libyan governmental leaders shared with me that it is going to require Libya to begin from the ground and completely rebuild after systematic destruction by a brutal regime. There have been no organizational structures and corruption has been the norm.
They believed it would likely get worse before it gets better. The revolution unified all the anti-Gaddafi tribes together for a common goal of ousting Gaddafi from power. Now they have the enormous task of trying to unify the country around creating the democratic system the revolution was fighting for. This is going to take time and they will need the help of the global community.
So, in January, the Peace and Prosperity Alliance will work in partnership with other agencies to launch the first Libya Leadership Institute in Libya. We will be training Libya’s new leadership in topics like conflict resolution, leadership, anti-corruption and organizational management.
Acting Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril announced the death, saying it was the moment Libya was waiting for, according to a report on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) website.
The BBC reports that Jibril gave few details of how Col Gaddafi died, but video footage emerged showing him captured alive. Other images apparently showed him being dragged through the streets.
Some fighters claim to have shot him, though it is not clear when he died, the BBC said.
US President Barack Obama said it was a "momentous day" for Libya, now that tyranny had fallen. He said Libya had a "long and winding road towards full democracy," but the US and other countries would stand behind Tripoli.
Col Gaddafi was toppled from power in August after 42 years in charge of the country. He was fighting his last stand in Sirte alongside two of his sons, Mutassim and Saif al-Islam, according to reports.
The BBC says Acting Justice Minister Mohammad al-Alagi told the AP news agency Saif al-Islam had been captured and taken to hospital with a leg wound ; other officials said Mutassim had been killed in battle on Thursday.
The BBC also reported that NATO, which has been running a bombing campaign in Libya for months, said it had carried out an air strike earlier on Thursday.
It added that French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said French jets had fired warning shots to halt a convoy carrying Col Gaddafi as it tried to flee Sirte. He said Libyan fighters had then descended and taken the colonel.
Residents swarmed the streets of the capital, waving flags and cheering from the windows of their cars, the BBC said. Tripoli’s myriad of streets in various districts has been gridlocked for hours.
People and fighters manning checkpoints shouted out "God is Great", as some distributed mints and biscuits — later dubbed "revolutionary treats" — to passing cars, the BBC said.
It added that proof of Col Gaddafi’s fate came in grainy pieces of video, first circulated among fighters, and then broadcast by international news channels.
The BBC said the first images showed a bloodied figure presumed to be Col Gaddafi. Later, video emerged of the colonel being bundled on to the back of a pick-up truck after being captured alive.
Some news channels picked up footage they said showed the colonel’s body being dragged through the streets, although the BBC said none of the video footage has been independently verified.
Accoridng to the BBC report, some fighters loyal to the National Transitional Council (NTC) said the colonel was shot when he tried to escape.
One NTC fighter told the BBC that he found Col Gaddafi hiding in a hole in Sirte, and the former leader had begged him not to shoot. The fighter showed reporters a golden pistol he said he had taken from Col Gaddafi.
Arabic TV channels showed images of troops surrounding two large drainage pipes where the reporters said Col Gaddafi was found.
The BBC said Jibril held a news conference in Tripoli to confirm the colonel’s death.
"We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Gaddafi has been killed," he said.
The BBC said Jibril promised that NTC chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil would later give more details of how Col Gaddafi was killed.
The BBC added that Jibril also said Abdul Jalil would officially announce the "liberation of the country," allowing the NTC to begin pushing through democratic reforms that will lead to elections.
"I think it’s for the Libyans to realize that it’s time to start a new Libya, a united Libya, one people, one future," Jibril said.
The BBC said Libyans gathered in towns and cities across the country to celebrate the reports of the colonel’s death.
Groups of young men fired guns in the air, and drivers honked horns in celebration, the BBC said.
Gaddafi’s death came after weeks of fierce fighting for Sirte, one of the last remaining pockets of resistance.
According to the BBC report, world leaders urged the NTC to carry through its promise to reform the country.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who had taken a leading role in NATO’s intervention, said it was "a day to remember all of Col Gaddafi’s victims."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it a "historic" moment, but warned : "The road ahead for Libya and its people will be difficult and full of challenges."
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