The New York Times reports: NATO’s seven-month air campaign in Libya, hailed by the alliance and many Libyans for blunting a lethal crackdown by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and helping to push him from power, came with an unrecognized toll: scores of civilian casualties the alliance has long refused to acknowledge or investigate.
By NATO’s telling during the war, and in statements since sorties ended on Oct. 31, the alliance-led operation was nearly flawless — a model air war that used high technology, meticulous planning and restraint to protect civilians from Colonel Qaddafi’s troops, which was the alliance’s mandate.
“We have carried out this operation very carefully, without confirmed civilian casualties,” the secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said in November.
But an on-the-ground examination by The New York Times of airstrike sites across Libya — including interviews with survivors, doctors and witnesses, and the collection of munitions remnants, medical reports, death certificates and photographs — found credible accounts of dozens of civilians killed by NATO in many distinct attacks. The victims, including at least 29 women or children, often had been asleep in homes when the ordnance hit.
In all, at least 40 civilians, and perhaps more than 70, were killed by NATO at these sites, available evidence suggests. While that total is not high compared with other conflicts in which Western powers have relied heavily on air power, and less than the exaggerated accounts circulated by the Qaddafi government, it is also not a complete accounting. Survivors and doctors working for the anti-Qaddafi interim authorities point to dozens more civilians wounded in these and other strikes, and they referred reporters to other sites where civilian casualties were suspected.
Two weeks after being provided a 27-page memorandum from The Times containing extensive details of nine separate attacks in which evidence indicated that allied planes had killed or wounded unintended victims, NATO modified its stance.
The New York Times reports: Tripoli is no longer the capital of a police state. But what it has become, in just a matter of weeks, can be both exhilarating and disturbing.
Hashish dealers are openly hawking their wares in the center of the city, Martyrs’ Square, known as Green Square before Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was overthrown. Drivers run red lights without giving it a thought, while political demonstrations snarl traffic. Irregular militia members who have replaced the hated Tripoli police in many neighborhoods are still showing poor discipline with their weapons, firing them accidentally or into the air all too frequently.
Tripoli is a vibrant city of nearly two million people with a bustling port, and it is graced by Roman ruins and old fortification walls built by the Ottomans and other conquerors. But while it has gone through other abrupt changes over the centuries, what is happening these days was unthinkable only weeks ago when Colonel Qaddafi tried to control even the smallest details of daily life.
Tinted windows were prohibited on cars; now, drivers everywhere are pasting dark green tinted plastic on their windows to keep out the searing sun but also as a sign of their new liberty. Fruit and vegetable vendors were restricted from selling their wares on most streets; now, throngs of them are out selling bananas and oranges beneath highway overpasses and on the sides of traffic circles, helping them feed their families but also worsening congestion.
English was largely prohibited from public signs by Colonel Qaddafi. Now, English signs have sprung up almost everywhere around town, even though few Libyans understand what they say. The signs are another expression of liberation, as well as the country’s readiness to open itself to the outer world.
“Today, Tripoli Has a New Heartbeat,” says one billboard displaying two militiamen hugging, put up by the interim municipal government. Even much of the revolutionary graffiti, which is everywhere, is in English. “Libya Free” is the most common. Some even say “Thank you, NATO” for the Western military assistance that was crucial to overthrowing the old government.
And, of course, there are numerous freshly scrawled depictions of the late dictator in a clown outfit or as a caricatured head on top of the body of one kind of beast or another.
Most Tripoli residents say that they have never been happier, but there is still some trepidation.
Reuters reports: Caught exactly a month after his father met a violent end, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is wanted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity – specifically for allegedly ordering the killing of unarmed protesters last spring. Libya’s interim leaders want him to stand trial at home and say they won’t extradite him; the justice minister said he faces the death penalty.
His attempt to flee began on Oct. 19, under NATO fire from the tribal bastion of Bani Walid, 100 miles from the capital. [Ahmed] Ammar and his fellow fighters said they believed he had been hiding since then in the desolate tracts of the mountainous Brak al-Shati region.
Aides who were captured at Bani Walid said Saif al-Islam’s convoy had been hit by a NATO air strike in a place nearby called Wadi Zamzam – “Holy Water River”. Since then, there had been speculation that nomadic tribesmen once lionised by his father might have been working to spirit him across Libya’s southern borders – perhaps, like his surviving brothers, sister and mother, into Niger or Algeria.
He did not get that far. Obari is a good 200 miles from either. But his captors believe he was headed for Niger, once a beneficiary of Muammar Gaddafi’s oil-fueled largesse, which has granted asylum to Saif al-Islam’s brother Saadi.
Ammar said his unit, scouring the desert for weeks, received a tip-off that a small group of Gaddafi loyalists – they did not know who – would be heading on a certain route toward Obari. Lying in wait, they spotted two all-terrain vehicles grinding through the darkness.
“We fired in the air and into the ground in front of them,” Ammar said. The small convoy pulled up, perhaps hoping to brazen it out.
“Who are you?” Adeljwani Ali Ahmed, the leader of the squad, demanded to know of the man he took to be the main passenger in the group.
“Abdelsalam,” came the reply.
It’s a common enough name, though it means “servant of peace” in Arabic; Saif al-Islam’s real name means “Sword of Islam”.
Ahmed, sizing the man up, took Ammar aside and whispered: “I think that’s Saif.”
Turning back to the car, a Toyota Land cruiser of a type favoured on these rugged desert tracks, Ammar said: “I know who you are. I know you.”
CASH AND KALASHNIKOVS
The game was up. The militiamen retrieved several Kalashnikov rifles, a hand grenade and, one of the Zintani fighters said, some $4,000 in cash from the vehicles.
It was a tiny haul from a man whose father commanded one of the best-equipped armies in Africa and who is suspected by many of holding the keys – in his head – to billions stolen from the Libyan state and stashed in secret bank accounts abroad.
“He didn’t say anything,” Ammar said. “He was very scared and then eventually he asked where we are from, and we said we are Libyans. He asked from which city and we said Zintan.”
Zintan sits far from the spot of Gaddafi’s capture in the Western, or Nafusa, Mountains, just a couple of hours drive south of the capital. The people of Zintan put together an effective militia in the uprising, and they are seeking to parlay their military prowess into political clout as new leaders in Tripoli try to form a government.
The Associated Press reports: Moammar Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam was captured in a southern Libyan city along with two of his aides who were trying to smuggle him out of the country, a militia commander said on Saturday.
Bashir al-Tlayeb of the Zintan brigades said that Seif al-Islam was caught in the desert town of Obari, near the southern city of Sabha about 400 miles (650 kilometers) south of Tripoli.
He didn’t elaborate on how Seif al-Islam was captured, but said that he was brought to the city of Zintan, the home of one of the largest revolutionary brigades in Libya.
Al-Tlayeb said that it would be up to the Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council to decide on where the former Libyan leader would be tried.
He also said that there was still no information about wanted former intelligence director Abdullah Senoussi or where he is located.
Seif al-Islam is the last of Moammar Gadhafi’s sons to remain unaccounted for.
The New York Times reports: The present and future are daunting enough for the wobbly authorities here, but then there is the tormented past to consider as well: four decades of state crimes whose wounds demand attention.
With mass murders, disappearances and public executions, the victims of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s People’s Court, Internal Security Agency and State Security Court number in the tens of thousands, human rights advocates here and abroad say. How will Libyans come to terms with their past?
Already, the provisional leaders are pondering options for exposing the long catalog of killings and torture, looking to models from South Africa, Europe and Latin America. They are motivated by a conviction, they say, that a new nation cannot be built unless light is shed on the dark corners of the old.
The specifics are being worked out, like so much else in a country that appears to be shaking itself awake after a long, bad dream. But the interim minister of justice, a veteran of legal jousting with the Qaddafi government from within and without, said there was a tentative plan: investigation, public hearings and prosecution, with the inquiry reaching all the way back to the earliest days of Colonel Qaddafi’s rise to power in 1969.
“We look to Chile, Argentina, South Africa — we take part of South Africa,” said the interim justice minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, referring to the approach of that country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which emphasized fact-finding and accountability rather than punishment.
Most important, Mr. Alagi suggested in an interview in the empty and echoing Justice Ministry here, was the imperative for Libyans to confront Qaddafi-era crimes in a country where there were no independent media to report them.
Helena Cobban asks: From Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Pakistan, to Somalia, to Yemen– and now, to Libya… What has the U.S. military brought in its wake?? The collapse of communities, of whole economies, of institutions, and families… Tragedies, wherever you look.
This is not to indict individual members of the military, which as a group of people probably contains as great a proportion of decent, competent people as any group of that size. What has happened has not been the fault of the individual people in the military, but in the fact that it was the military that was used at all in response to all these problems. For each and every one of those “problems”, there were non-military policies that were available and could have been pursued– most likely with, at the end of the day, a lot more success from the American people’s point of view than we ended up winning. But the rush, the urge, the unseemly push to use military force proved overwhelming. Especially to those three presidents– Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama– who had never themselves experienced the horrors of war.
Almost none of this destruction need have happened– if only these men and their advisers had kept fast to the older, more principled visions of America as a country that upholds and strengthen the rule of international law and all the institutions built up around it… If only these men had not been so easily tempted by the ‘flash-bang’ wizardry and testosterone-driven arrogance of war.
But here we are. And at the other end of the Mediterranean this week, there have been two notably different kind of gatherings. At one of them, on Monday, world leaders gave a strong vote to Palestine’s application to become a member of the UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural organization (UNESCO). In that vote, 107 nations (including several substantial European allies of Washington) defied vigorous American arm-twisting to support the Palestinian request.
The U.S. State Department announced almost immediately that it would stop providing the funding it has been giving to UNESCO. Far-reaching legislation passed over recent years by the strongly Israeli-controlled U.S. Congress means that the administration may have to extend its funding cut-off to other agencies, too.
How very, very far the United States has come from those idealistic days, 60 years ago, when it was a victorious America, standing unchallenged astride the the whole world, that exercised wisdom and restraint by setting up the United Nations as a set of institutions based on the key principles of human equality, respect for the rule of law, and the need to stress nonviolent, negotiated ways to resolved conflicts whenever possible.
The New York Times reports: Many of the local militia leaders who helped topple Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are abandoning a pledge to give up their weapons and now say they intend to preserve their autonomy and influence political decisions as “guardians of the revolution.”
The issue of the militias is one of the most urgent facing Libya’s new provisional government, the Transitional National Council. Scores of freewheeling brigades of armed volunteers sprang up around the country and often reported to local military councils, which became de facto local governments in cities like Misurata and Zintan, as well as the capital, Tripoli.
The provisional government’s departing prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, suggested in a news conference Sunday night that instead of expecting the local militias to disband, the Transitional National Council should try to incorporate them by expanding to include their representatives.
“Nobody wants to give up arms now, and many tribes and cities are accumulating arms ‘just in case,’ ” said Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for the council’s executive board.
Noting reports of sporadic clashes between militias as well as vigilante revenge killings, many civilian leaders, along with some fighters, say the militias’ shift from merely dragging their feet about surrendering weapons to actively asserting a continuing political role poses a stark challenge to the council’s fragile authority.
“This could lead to a mess, to conflict between the councils,” said Ramadan Zarmoh, 63, a leader of the Misurata military council, who argued that the city’s militia should dissolve itself almost immediately after a new defense ministry is formed. “If we want to have democracy, we can’t have this.”
Daniel Williams writes: If anyone is surprised by the apparent killing of Moammar Gadhafi while in the custody of militia members from the town of Misrata, they shouldn’t be.
More than 100 militia brigades from Misrata have been operating outside of any official military and civilian command since Tripoli fell in August. Members of these militias have engaged in torture, pursued suspected enemies far and wide, detained them and shot them in detention, Human Rights Watch has found. Members of these brigades have stated that the entire displaced population of one town, Tawergha, which they believe largely supported Gadhafi avidly, cannot return home.
As the war in Libya comes to an end, the pressing need for accountability and reconciliation is clear. The actions of the Misrata brigades are a gauge of how difficult that will be, and Misrata is not alone in its call for vengeance. In the far west, anti-Gadhafi militias from the Nafusa Mountains have looted and burned homes and schools of tribes that supported the deposed dictator. Anti-Gadhafi militias from Zuwara have looted property as they demanded compensation for damage they suffered during the war.
The apparent execution of 53 pro-Gadhafi supporters in a hotel in Sirte apparently under control of Misrata fighters is a bad omen. It is up to the National Transitional Council to rein in all the militias and quickly establish a functioning justice system. The NTC should take control of the many makeshift detention facilities, expedite the return of displaced Libyans, and ensure the investigation, trial and punishment of wrongdoers acting in the name of vengeance. That includes Gadhafi’s killers if the evidence showed crimes were committed. The NTC, and its foreign backers, have comprehensively failed to start setting up a justice system — even in Benghazi, where they have been in charge since the spring.
Clearly the NTC is up against the passions of a nasty war. Misrata withstood a two-month siege at the hands of Gadhafi’s forces with near-daily indiscriminate attacks that killed about 1,000 of its citizens. The town’s main boulevard, Tripoli Street, is in ruins. Facades of public buildings and private homes collapsed from tank fire and are charred inside and out. The pockmarks of bullet holes disfigure construction everywhere.
The fierce fight for Misrata has left a penetrating bitter aftertaste. Misratans say they detest anyone who backed Gadhafi. They are not welcome in Misrata, even if the city and its environs was their home for generations.
The Misrata militia is focusing its greatest wrath on Tawergha, a town of about 30,000 people just south of the city. Both Misratans and Tawerghas say residents there were enthusiastic Gadhafi supporters. Hundreds of erstwhile civilians in that town took up arms to fight for him. Misratans say Tawergha volunteers committed rapes and pillaged with gusto, though Misrata officials decline to produce evidence of the alleged rapes, saying family shame inhibits witnesses and victims from coming forward.
In any event, Misratan militia members are venting their anger on all Tawerghas, who are largely descendants of African slaves. Most fled their town as Misratan fighters advanced there between Aug. 10 and Aug. 12.
Witnesses and victims we interviewed provided credible accounts of Misratan militias shooting and wounding unarmed Tawerghas and torturing detainees, in a few cases to death. In Hun, about 250 miles south of Misrata, militias from Benghazi have taken it upon themselves to protect about 4,000 refugees. They say Misratans are hunting down Tawerghas.
One hospitalized Tawergha told Human Rights Watch how he was shot in the side and leg and abandoned to die near Hun: “They left us at the edge of the road, put a blanket over us and then started swearing, ‘You are dogs, hope you die.’”
Misrata militias, with the momentary compliance of local officials, insist that no Tawerghas should return to the area. Ibrahim Yusuf bin Ghashir, a representative of the NTC, said: “We think it would be better to relocate them somewhere else.” The allegations of rape, he added, “cannot be forgiven and it would be better to resettle them far away.”
This unforgiving campaign is not limited to Tawerghas. Many Misratans say that any tribe or group that supported Gadhafi — thousands of people — should not return to the city. The graffiti on tumble-down town walls express Misratans’ view: “(Expletive) No returnees.”
Human Rights Watch has interviewed refugees from Misrata who tried to return and were forbidden to enter the city without a permit from the local council. A Misrata militia member told the media that all pro-Gadhafi travelers are barred from the city.
As painful as the losses have been for Misrata and the rest of Libya, everyone who fought Gadhafi should remember what they were fighting for: an end to torture, to arbitrary detention, to pitting one tribe against another; for respect and equality among neighbors. Otherwise, the agony that preceded victory will breed vengeance, rancor and a divided new Libya — one that in disturbing ways may resemble the old.
Daniel Williams is a Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch
The Associated Press reports: For the past two months, Tawergha has been a ghost town, with access roads blocked by earthen mounds and other obstacles. Road signs pointing to Tawergha have been painted over. Misrata brigades have scribbled slogans on the walls of abandoned homes.
“The Tawergha are the rats of Gadhafi,” read graffiti on one facade, using Gadhafi’s derogatory name for his opponents. The fallen regime had tried to ensure Tawergha’s loyalty with promises of jobs and investment, and while some of the homes there were ramshackle, the town also boasted a modern school, medical clinic and rows of new apartment buildings.
A tour of Tawergha on Friday showed widespread vandalism. The school, clinic, small shops and modern apartments had been ransacked, with some rooms burned and contents of closets strewn on the ground.
Human Rights Watch said its team saw militias and individuals from Misrata set 12 homes on fire during a three-day period in early October. On Oct. 25, the team saw trucks drive out of Tawergha with furniture and carpets that had apparently been looted, and that Misrata fighters who claimed to be guarding the town did not intervene.
Two Misrata fighters driving through Tawergha on Friday said the town’s residents are no longer welcome. “They will have to find a different place and build houses there,” said 22-year-old Naji Akhlaf, standing outside a small grocery that had been largely emptied out, with cartons of juice strewn across the entrance.
“This is the best solution so we can relax and get on with our lives,” he said.
Tawerghans also lived in other parts of Libya, including in Misrata where a rundown apartment complex that once housed hundreds of them is to be razed. City officials say the complex is also home to non-Tawerghans and is being torn down because it’s unsanitary and unsafe. Tawerghans have fled those apartments and their neighbors said they won’t allow them back.
Human Rights Watch, citing interviews with dozens of Tawerghans, said they gave credible accounts of arbitrary arrests and beatings of detainees by Misrata militias, including descriptions of two deaths in custody.
About 10,000 Tawerghans have reached two camps on the outskirts of the eastern city of Benghazi, until recently the seat of the National Transitional Council, and U.N. officials say that number is growing. Thousands more have sought refuge near Tripoli, Tarhouna and in remote areas of the south.
An NTC-funded aid group, LibAid, is providing food and other supplies to some of the displaced, said Mohammed el-Sweii, an official in the group. El-Sweii said guards have been stationed at the camps to prevent acts of revenge.
The New York Times reports: When Tripoli, the Libyan capital, fell, rebel fighters found secret intelligence documents linking Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to a plot by former members of Saddam Hussein’s military and Baath Party to overthrow the Iraqi government, according to an Iraqi official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The details of the plot were revealed to Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, this month in a surprise visit to Baghdad by Libya’s interim leader, Mahmoud Jibril, said the official, who demanded anonymity because the matter was supposed to be confidential. This week, Iraqi security forces responded, arresting more than 200 suspects in connection with the plot.
The looted ruins of Colonel Qaddafi’s intelligence headquarters in Tripoli have revealed many secrets. The trove has uncovered ties between the Libyan strongman and the C.I.A. and shed light on negotiations between Chinese arms dealers and Libyan officials during the course of the uprising, an embarrassment to officials in Beijing.
But here in Iraq, the records of Colonel Qaddafi’s plot had special resonance. The Iraqi news media celebrated Colonel Qaddafi’s death last week. But the news that the colonel may have been backing a Baathist-led coup added another layer of intrigue just as Iraq was digesting the weekend news that President Obama had announced that the last American soldier would leave by the end of the year. Some suggested that it was a fiction spread only to allow for the arrests of Sunnis, a reflection of the fragile sectarian tensions.
“The people that were arrested do not deserve this, because many of them were old,” said Hamid al-Mutlaq, a member of Parliament’s security committee from the Iraqiya bloc, which is largely Sunni. “The timing for this is bad because the U.S. forces are about to leave, and we should focus on national reconciliation.”
On state television, Hussein Kamal, Iraq’s deputy interior minister, said the plot included agitators spread throughout the country’s south and just north of Baghdad, and had been planning “terrorist operations and sabotage” after the withdrawal of the United States military.
The Daily Telegraph reports: Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi’s fugitive son, who is wanted for crimes against humanity has established indirect contacts with the International Criminal Court on his surrender, the court’s chief prosecutor said.
The prosecutor said that his office was in “informal contact” with Muammar Gaddafi’s son through intermediaries regarding his surrender to the war crimes court.
“Through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Saif. The office of the prosecutor has made it clear that if he surrenders to the ICC, he has the right to be heard in court, he is innocent until proven guilty. The judges will decide,” prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo would not say with whom the court is talking. He also said the court does not know al-Islam’s whereabouts.
If Saif is brought before the court, Mr Moreno-Ocampo said, he will “have all the rights and be protected,” and will be allowed to present his defence.
David Lepeska writes: One morning in late September, as Libyan rebels launched their final advance on Sirte, Muammar Qaddafi’s hometown, Hisham Matar explained to a small, rapt audience at the century-old Chicago Club why the removal of repressive long-time dictators, though great, had not been the most meaningful achievement of the Arab Spring. “Our collective imagination – a whole array of expectations about our governments, our institutions, our dreams – has just shifted,” he said. “The horizon has moved much further than even the most audacious of us would have suggested.”
Matar speaks softly, but with confidence and precision. “You can see it on people’s bodies, in their eyes and their faces, hear it in their voices,” he adds during an interview in the lobby of his downtown hotel later that morning. “It’s as if these regimes were sitting literally on top of us. There’s a new ease, a new optimism, a new sense of ownership of the future. That tiresome record of complaining with resignation at the end of it – that’s gone, and it’s quite an extraordinary thing to lose so quickly.”
Little-known outside literary circles before this year, Matar seems to have surfaced at precisely the right moment to herald a new Arab modernity. Born in New York City in 1970, he moved with his family to Tripoli three years later when his father, Jaballa, resigned from a United Nations posting in objection to the Qaddafi regime. In 1979, Jaballa found himself on a Libyan government watch list and again moved the family, this time to Cairo. He wrote articles calling for democracy, and became a leader of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya. In the mid-80s, Matar was sent to boarding school in the UK, where he stayed to study architecture at university.
On the afternoon of March 12, 1990, Jaballa was taken from the family’s Cairo home by Egypt’s mukhabarat, handed over to the Libyan government and deposited in Abu Salim prison. Two letters, smuggled out by fellow prisoners in 1992 and 1995, relayed stories of interrogation and torture. The family has not heard from Jaballa since. His fate remains unknown.
The New York Times reports: Libya’s interim leader said Wednesday that he had asked NATO to prolong its air patrols through December and add military advisers on the ground, despite his official declaration on Sunday of the country’s liberation after the killing of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
“We have asked NATO to stay until the end of the year, and it certainly has the international legitimacy to remain in Libya to protect the civilians from Qaddafi loyalists,” the interim leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, said in an interview with the pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera.
“Qaddafi still has supporters in neighboring countries and we fear those loyalists could be launching attacks against us and infiltrating our borders,” he said. “We need technical support and training for our troops on the ground. We also need communications equipment and we need aerial intelligence to monitor our borders.”
Mr. Abdel-Jalil was interviewed while attending a Libya aid conference in Doha, Qatar. He spoke as NATO was preparing within days to formally end its operations in Libya and as the country enters a treacherous new phase in its post-Qaddafi transformation.
Fifty-three people, apparent Gaddafi supporters, seem to have been executed at a hotel in Sirte last week, Human Rights Watch said today. The hotel is in an area of the city that was under the control of anti-Gaddafi fighters from Misrata before the killings took place.
Human Rights Watch called on Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) to conduct an immediate and transparent investigation into the apparent mass execution and to bring those responsible to justice.
“We found 53 decomposing bodies, apparently Gaddafi supporters, at an abandoned hotel in Sirte, and some had their hands bound behind their backs when they were shot,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who investigated the killings. “This requires the immediate attention of the Libyan authorities to investigate what happened and hold accountable those responsible.”
Human Rights Watch saw the badly decomposed remains of the 53 people on October 23, 2011, at the Hotel Mahari in District 2 of Sirte. The bodies were clustered together, apparently where they had been killed, on the grass in the sea-view garden of the hotel.
Vivienne Walt reports: Should Libyans care how Muammar Gaddafi died? As the debate continues over whether rebel fighters executed Gaddafi after capturing him — in violation of international rules of war — the issue has raised stark differences between Libya’s new leaders, who suffered for decades under a suffocating dictatorship, and the views of some of their closest Western allies.
In numerous interviews over the weekend in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi, not a single Libyan — including top officials of the new regime — expressed serious concern that Gaddafi might have been executed after being captured alive. Instead, the general feeling might best be summed up by Colonel Omar Hariri, a war hero, who had been a comrade-in-arms of Gaddafi during their coup in 1969, and who headed this year’s rebel military forces in eastern Libya. As Hariri greeted fighters returning to Benghazi from the front in Gaddafi’s birthplace of Sirt on Saturday, TIME asked him if he was concerned about how Gaddafi had died. “I don’t care, so long as he’s dead,” he said. In a separate interview on Sunday, the interim Finance and Oil Minister Ali Tarhouni — who told TIME he has been asked to be the new interim Prime Minister — said he felt “relieved” that Gaddafi had been killed.
The great majority of Libyans are rejoicing his death too. Libyans have emerged from a very long nightmare, in which two generations lived in terror under Gaddafi’s dictatorship. The details of how he met his end seem irrelevant to most of them. In death, Gaddafi has become an object of ridicule, as though he were just a pathetic old man, rather than their omnipotent ruler. The walls in Benghazi and Tripoli, which for years were plastered with portraits of Gaddafi as the untouchable leader, are filled with graffiti portraying him as a bushy-haired clown. And thousands of people have lined up to view Gaddafi’s bloodied and beaten corpse, which has been laid out since Friday in the cold-storage room of a food market in Misratah, about 150 miles (240 km) east of Tripoli.