How Gaddafi Died: The Interim Prime Minister's Version

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Luc Gnago / Reuters / Landov

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2007

Libya's interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told TIME late Thursday night that Gaddafi had been killed in cross-fire between rebels and loyalist fighters while the rebels in Gaddafi's birthplace of Sirt were attempting to carry the wounded colonel to an ambulance. Jibril also said that Gaddafi did not resist arrest, even though he was carrying a small pistol in his holster. "There was cross-fire and he was shot while they were carrying him to a truck," Jibril said, in a sit-down interview with TIME.

According to Jibril, Gaddafi was cornered while hiding in a large sewage pipe in Sirt, as rebels closed in on the last bit of disputed territory in the city, about 230 miles east of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast. "He did not resist, although he had a small pistol," Jibril says. He was shot once in the arm, and then, as fighters carried him to the ambulance, a fierce fire-fight broke out between the warring sides. Gaddafi was killed in that, Jibril said, although he did not know which side had fired the fatal shot. According to the autopsy report, Gaddafi was wearing a wig. "That was a real surprise to me," says Jibril, who is the number two figure in the rebels' National Transitional Council.

How Gaddafi was injured in the first place has yet to be clarified. Reuters reported that his convoy had attempted to escape from besieged Sirt when it was hit by either a NATO jet or helicopter, which killed many if not most of his escort. The dazed and bloodied Gaddafi then hid in a drainage pipe with his surviving guards until they were found by fighters associated with the interim government.

Gaddafi will be buried in Misratah in a religious ceremony on Friday, according to Jibril — a break with Muslim tradition, which generally dictates that the dead are buried the same day, before sundown. The National Transitional Council's Finance and Oil Minister Ali Tarhouni had sped to Misratah late Thursday afternoon, in order to view Gaddafi's body and to discuss how to bury him. Jibril says NTC officials believed it would be unwise to bring Gaddafi to the capital. "I don't think it would have been wise for the body to have been brought to Tripoli where there is so much anger and bitterness," Jibril said, adding, "It is better for the respect of the body" for Gaddafi's body to be buried elsewhere.

If the details are correct in Jibril's account — which he said were gleaned from coroner and eyewitness reports in Sirt and nearby Misratah — it would mean that the rebel fighters intended to hand over Gaddafi alive. That would have adhered to the wishes of Western governments, who in recent months have expressed the hope that Gaddafi would be tried in an international court. Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam were both indicted by the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, for crimes against humanity, for allegedly having ordered their security forces to kill unarmed protesters in easern Libya in February, when the revolt began.

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