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Five years since Colonel Gaddafi’s death, Libya still floundering in turmoil

In the video showing Colonel Gaddafi’s last minutes he is heard uttering curses addressed to his killers
Moammar Gadhafi, 2009 AP Photo/Ben Curtis
Moammar Gadhafi, 2009
© AP Photo/Ben Curtis

CAIRO, October 20. /TASS/. Five years ago today Libyan leader Colonel Muamar Gaddafi met his grisly fate. While Libyan army units still loyal to him, fragmented and bled dry by NATO bombardments, were fighting tooth and nail against "revolutionary" militant groups that had mounted an all-out offensive, Gaddafi, on the run for many months, had finally taken refuge in his home city of Sirte. His plight looked predetermined, as Libya was hopelessly sinking into an abyss of gloom and violent chaos.

Colonel’s gruesome death

Militants calling themselves the National Transitional Council of Libya seized Gaddafi after NATO’s airstrike on his motorcade. The video footage so familiar to the whole world is evidence that in the last moments of his life Gaddafi was fiendishly beaten to a pulp, bayonetted, tortured and mutilated. Then there appeared videos of 18-year-old Ahmed al-Shaibani, who reportedly killed the half-dead and bleeding Gaddafi by shooting him in the temple with a 9-mm gold-plated gun the Libyan leader always carried around.

The NTC later denied Gaddafi’s murder was intentional. It claimed he had died in a shootout between his supporters and rebels, who even tried to save his life. Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the NTC’s Executive Board, argued that Gaddafi had been found in a large drainage pipe. He had a wounded arm. If Jibril is to be believed, Gaddafi was being taken to hospital when the vehicle came under crossfire. Gaddafi died of a lethal wound to the head. Later, the new authorities rebuffed all international requests for autopsy results.

In the meantime, as the late Libyan leader’s cousin, Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, told Jeune Afrique magazine that Gaddafi had been well aware that NATO’s secret services were after him and knew his whereabouts.

"On October 20, 2011 he made a decision to move to a new place," al-Dam said. "As soon as the colonel left the shelter, the strike against his motorcade followed."

The attack produced heavy casualties. Several bombs containing choking agents were dropped. Some 70 loyal associates lost consciousness.

"All of them were killed. Gaddafi had suffered multiple wounds, passed out and was handed over to militant groups," al-Dam said.

In violation of the rules of Islam, Gaddafi was buried only several days after. Before the funeral his body and that of his son Mutassim were put on display in a supermarket refrigerator in Misrata (200 kilometers east of Tripoli). Curious onlookers stood in long lines waiting for their turn to take a look at the remains of their all-mighty ruler. Gaddafi’s burial site remains a secret. The new authorities fear that his grave may become a pilgrimage shrine for his supporters.

Gaddafi’s rule and its legacy

Libya had spent 40 years under Gaddafi’s uninterrupted rule. With his death it has virtually ceased to exist. One can hardly regard as fully capable a country where most decisions are made at gunpoint, where there are three governments and two parliaments constantly at odds with each other, where prime ministers take turns in an endless succession, where lawmakers feel free to vote to prolong their own powers, where rich oilfields and ports change hands now and then between rival factions and where many regions are left entirely at the mercy of local warlords.

Gaddafi, though cursed by some as a tyrant who mercilessly quashed dissent, outlawed political life and nipped the opposition in the bud, managed to achieve his prime objective. He built a Libya that was a centralized state, and not a territory of warring tribes and clans. His citizens enjoyed rights, fringe benefits and decent living conditions. Oil revenues were distributed among the Libyans, who enjoyed free education, including an opportunity to receive instruction in other countries, free medical care and social insurance, and could obtain real estate and other properties free of charge or for a token payment.

Without such a strong leader the "revolutionary wave" brought to the surface an endless wave of rival Islamic groups many of which promptly turned radical. Many of these associated themselves with Al-Qaeda from the outset. Their militants first fought against Gaddafi and then eagerly joined the Islamic State (outlawed in Russia), which promptly started to thrive in an oil-rich and feud-ravaged country possessing vast military arsenals.

Gaddafi had repeatedly warned of such risks. Very few agreed to lend an attentive ear to his prophecies. As he addressed the nation from the balcony of his residence in Tripoli, the colonel warned that those who had unleashed a war against his country were out to turn it into Bin Laden’s emirate or into another Afghanistan. Later, Gaddafi accused NATO of intending to colonize Libya and to lay hands on its oil and water resources.

"The colonialists want Libyans to kill each other. They want to bring our people to their knees. If Libya is on fire, who will manage to govern it?" he asked prophetically.

"They will never kill me"

Nobody will now know what thoughts may have raced through young Captain Gaddafi’s mind on September 1, 1969, when at the age of 27 he led a group of Libyan army officers who ousted King Idris from power. Surely, he could have hardly anticipated that four decades later he would suffer such a terrible fate to die at the hands of Jamahiriya’s "sons" who would torture and ridicule him.

Nor could he have imagined that he would go down in history as one of the youngest-ever heads of state and the founder of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, established on the ideas of the Green Book he authored, his Third International Theory and the principle of direct democracy.

The late Libyan leader was controversial, odious, extravagant and charismatic. He earned an unlimited number of unofficial nicknames, such as The King of the Kings, the rule of the United States of Africa, the doyen of the Arab and African leaders, the keeper of the Gateway to the Black Continent, which with his death turned the Door to Hell. Some claimed he was a madman, a tyrant and an oddball.

Gaddafi had no fear of death.

"I will never abandon Libyan soil, I will go on fighting to the last drop of my blood, and I will die here as a martyr," Gaddafi said on the day of the Libyan Revolution’s 42nd anniversary. "We, Libyans offered resistance to the United States, Italy and Britain in the past and we will not surrender now. I’m there where they will never get or kill me, because I am alive in the heats of millions of Libyans."

In one of his latest messages, Gaddafi urged the people of his country to go on fighting after his death.

"Even if you don’t hear my voice, do go on fighting," he urged his fellow countrymen.

In the video showing Gaddafi’s last minutes he is heard uttering curses addressed to his butchers. It looks like Libya as an integral state may rid itself of these curses only after a long while. If at all.