Even before it has been conclusively established how Muammar Gaddafi died, a debate has begun about the implications of him having been killed by his captors. A bullet wound to his left temple seems to be widely regarded as conclusive evidence that he was swiftly and illegally executed.
There is however a more obvious explanation for what most likely turned out to be the fatal bullet wound: he shot himself.
The Guardian reports:
Among ordinary Libyans, there were few regrets about the bloody and preemptive manner of Gaddafi’s demise. Most worshippers at Friday prayers in the capital’s Martyrs Square said they were pleased Gaddafi had been killed. But one young woman said: “Some people do care about the rule of law and don’t think it’s right that he should have been assassinated.”
The NTC faces questions from international rights organisations. On Thursday, Jibril claimed that Gaddafi had been killed from a bullet to the head received in crossfire between rebel fighters and his supporters. He was dragged alive on to a truck, but died “when the car was moving”, Jibril said, citing forensic reports.
Gruesome mobile phone footage obtained by the Global Post undermines this account. It records the minutes after Gaddafi’s capture, when his convoy came under Nato and rebel attack. He is dragged out of a tunnel where he had been hiding. Blood is already pouring out of a wound on the left side of his head.
Gaddafi had already declared that he would die in Libya. As he lay in a drain and could hear approaching soldiers he knew the chase was over. At that point, was he simply going to wait to discover his own fate or determine it himself?
What he and most people probably wouldn’t know is that a bullet through the cerebral cortex is not necessarily going to result in instant death since this is not the part of the brain that controls the body’s vital functions.
In the minutes after Gaddafi’s capture, it’s certainly possible that he was shot, but there are two reasons to doubt this is what happened. In such a tight throng, anyone firing such a shot risked shooting someone else, and even though there is now a considerable amount of cell-phone footage showing the way he was man-handled there is, as far as I’m aware, none that actually shows him being shot.
Perhaps there was a momentary lull in all that chaos, everyone put their cell phones in their pockets and then he was shot. Maybe — but I doubt it. Indeed, in this age where there is a universal hunger to capture every historic moment on a cell phone, this seems like one moment that someone — had they the opportunity — was bound to record.