Gaddafi's last words as he begged for mercy: 'What did I do to you?' (2022)

Osama Swehli is bearded and wears his hair long, tied back in a thick ponytail. A soldier with the National Transitional Council’s fighters in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, his English is fluent from his time living in west London.

Until the fall of Sirte – Muammar Gaddafi’s home city – Swehli was one of those who listened in to the radio frequencies of the pro-Gaddafi defenders of the besieged city.

Twelve days ago, the Observer encountered Swelhi at a mortar position in Sirte close to the city’s still contested television station at the edge of District Two where the Gaddafi loyalists would be trapped in a diminishing pocket. “We know some of the call signs of those inside,” Swehli explained, as men around him fired mortars into the areas still under Gaddafi control.

“We know that call sign ‘1’ refers to Mo’atissim Gaddafi and that ‘3’ refers to Mansour Dhao, who is commanding the defences. We have an inkling too about someone known as ‘2’, who we have not heard from for a while and who has either escaped or been killed.” That person, he believed, was Abdullah Senussi, Muammar Gaddafi’s intelligence chief.

“There is someone important in there, too,” Swelhi said, almost as an afterthought. “We have heard several times about something called ‘the asset’ which has been moved around the city.” Precisely who and what “the asset” was now is clear, even if most government fighters in and around the city could not believe it at the time. They were convinced that Libya’s former leader was in all likelihood hiding in the Sahara desert. But the asset was Gaddafi himself, who would die in the city, humiliated and bloody, begging his captors not to shoot him.

Intervening in Libya in 2011 was the right thing to do | Bernard-Henri LévyRead more
(Video) Gaddafi's last words as he begged for mercy: 'What did I do to you?

Already the last minutes in Gaddafi’s life have gained a grisly status. A spectacle of pain and humiliation, the end of the man who once styled himself the “king of the kings of Africa” has been told in snatches of mobile phone footage and blurry stills and contradictory statements. It is the longest of these fragments of a death – a jerky three minutes and more shot by fighter Ali Algadi on his iPhone and acquired by a website, the Global Post – that describes those moments in the most detail. A dazed and confused Gaddafi is led from the drain where he was captured, bleeding heavily from a deep wound on the left side of his head, from his arm, and, apparently, from other injuries to his neck and torso, staining his tunic red with blood. He is next seen on the ground, surrounded by men with weapons shouting “God is great” and firing in the air, before being lifted on to a pickup truck as men around him shout that the ruler for more than four decades should be “kept alive”.

There are other clips that complete much of the story: Gaddafi slumped on a pickup truck, face smeared with blood, apparently unconscious; Gaddafi shirtless and bloody on the ground surrounded by a mob; Gaddafi dead in the back of an ambulance. What is not there is the moment of his death – and how it happened – amid claims that he was killed by fighters with a shot to the head or stomach. By Friday, the day after he died, the body of the former dictator once so feared by his Libyan opponents was facing a final indignity – being stored on the floor of a room-sized freezer in Misrata usually used by restaurants and shops to keep perishable goods.

If there is an irony surrounding the death of Muammar Gaddafi, it is, perhaps, that he should have met his end in Sirte, a city more than any other associated with his rule. Gaddafi was not born in the city itself but in Bou Hadi, a sprawling, largely rural area of farms and large villas on the city’s outskirts.

It was Sirte that Gaddafi turned into his second capital – a former fishing village that he transformed into a place dedicated to both his own ego and his Third Revolutionary Theory, which he embodied in his Green Book that was taught in all Libyan schools. It was here, too, that the nomenklatura of Gaddafi’s regime had their second homes, sprawling villas in roads lined by eucalyptus trees, beside well-tended parks or overlooking the Mediterranean. And as the city fell, bit by bit over the weeks, its nature was revealed.

Abandoned houses reveal evidence of a city’s dedication to the Gaddafi cult. The Observer found a discarded mobile phone belonging, it seems clear, to a friend of Mo’atissim Gaddafi with pictures of parked white stretch limousines. There are pictures in the wealthier houses of Gaddafi with their occupants and stylised beaten copper images of Gaddafi on the walls. In one building, discovered by paramedics with the government forces, there is a trove of snapshots of Gaddafi and his sons. No wonder, perhaps, that this is where he chose to make his last stand.

The conflict around the city – during the long siege that began in September – reveals another nature of Sirte that must have made it attractive to Gaddafi. There are concrete walls within walls, compounds within those barriers, easy for Gaddafi and his protectors to defend. For those attacking Sirte they seemed for a while to be insuperable obstacles, not least the long barrier blocking access to the vast plaza of the Ouagoudougou conference centre.

(Video) New footage of Gaddafi's capture (WARNING graphic images) - BBC Newsnight

During the weeks of the siege, life on the Gaddafi side of the lines in Sirte was thrown up in fragments, as disjointed as the last moments of Gaddafi’s life. There were small counter-attacks as the government forces crept forward, sometimes with rocket-propelled grenades that burst in the air or crashed into buildings. At other times machine-gun fire rattled into the bullet-pocked facades of offices, banks, schools or villas. But it was at night that Gaddafi’s forces were most active. They probed for weak positions. There were rumours of cars attempting to break out as the net closed.

Twice the Observer heard accounts of sightings of a car belonging to Mo’atissim Gaddafi. And with each day fighters posed the same question to which they could not supply an answer: why was it that those fighting on the Gaddafi side would not give up?

It is only now, after Gaddafi’s death, that any sketchy details of how he lived on the run have begun to emerge and, indeed, who was ultimately responsible for his safety. How Gaddafi came to be in Sirte – if not the reason that he went to one of the few locations still strongly supportive of him – remains murky. It is believed he fled from Tripoli shortly before it fell in August.

Motorcades carrying his wife and daughter to Algeria, and at least one other son to Niger, were spotted and the details leaked to the media by Nato. But the convoy carrying the dictator appears to have been missed. For his escape, Gaddafi had only one highway to travel – leading south of the capital to Beni Walid, 90 miles from Tripoli, the only highway not in rebel hands. A further detour would then have been necessary to avoid the rebels who were pushing in all directions out of the coastal city of Misrata, involving the convoy driving south-east, deeper into the Libyan desert, to the only traffic junction leading to Sirte at Waddan. This city, which fell to the rebels last month, was under 24-hour surveillance, according to the Pentagon, with drones keeping a close eye on the chemical weapons store five miles north of the city – home to Libya’s remaining stockpile of nine tonnes of mustard gas.

The rebels were deeply divided over where Gaddafi was. Some believed he had fled on one of the convoys carrying his wife and other sons that were spotted crossing south to Niger and east to Algeria. Misrata’s Shaheed brigade set up a special unit, suspecting that Gaddafi had been trapped in the capital by the speed of the rebel advance and for the last two months they have been carrying out raids in Tripoli hoping to find him.Still others thought he had driven to the fabled Bunker, a possibly mythical concrete complex constructed deep in the desert by the dictator for such an emergency. They were all wrong.

The truth of Gaddafi’s last movements has now been revealed by one of his inner circle who travelled with him on his last convoy: Mansour Dhao – number “3” in the pro-Gaddafi radio codes – a former commander of Libya’s Revolutionary Guards. And like Gaddafi, Dhao was not supposed to be in Sirte. Instead, it was widely reported that Dhao had fled Libya in a convoy of cars heading for Niger. But as the weeks of the siege of Sirte went on, it became clear this was not true. Even as it was revealed that Gaddafi and his fourth son Mo’atissim were dead, Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, stumbled across an injured Dhao in hospital, who confirmed he had been in the same convoy with Gaddafi when the former Libyan leader had been captured and his son killed.

A day later Dhao was interviewed by a television crew. What Dhao had to say contradicted not only some previous understanding of who was conducting the war on Gaddafi’s behalf but supplied the first description of how events had unfolded on Gaddafi’s last day. While it was believed that Gaddafi’s son Khamis had directed the regime’s attempts to put down the rebellion against it, Dhao insisted that it was Mo’atissim. Not only that, Mo’atissim took control of his father’s safety, making all the key decisions until the end. “He was in charge of everything,” said Dhao. His face heavily bruised, Dhao insisted it was Mo’atissim who organised each movement of Gaddafi as he was ferried between safe houses for the two months since the fall of Tripoli, moving location on average every four days before becoming trapped in Sirte, the monument that became his living mausoleum. Crucially, it has been Dhao who has provided the most compelling account yet offered of Gaddafi’s last day of life as he attempted to leave the last pocket in the shattered seaside District Two to reach the countryside beyond Sirte’s eastern boundary.

(Video) The last moments of Muammar Gaddafi

“Gaddafi did not run away, and he did not want to escape,” Dhao said. “We left the area where we were staying, to head towards Jarif, where he comes from. The rebels were surrounding the whole area, so we had heavy clashes with them and tried to escape towards Jarif and break out of the siege. After that the rebels surrounded us outside the area and prevented us from reaching the road to Jarif. They launched heavy raids on us which led to the destruction of the cars and the death of many individuals who were with us.

“After that we came out of the cars and split into several groups and we walked on foot, and I was with Gaddafi’s group that included Abu Bakr Yunis Jabr and his sons, and several volunteers and soldiers. I do not know what happened in the final moments, because I was unconscious after I was hit on my back.”

Some things do not ring true. According to Dhao, Gaddafi was moving from place to place and apartment to apartment until last week, but given the state of the siege of Sirte at that stage it seems unlikely that he could have entered the city from outside. The net was closing around the last loyalists who were squeezed into a pocket, surrounded on all sides, that was becoming ever smaller by the day.

Dhao made no mention either of the attack on the Gaddafi convoy by a US Predator drone and a French Rafale jet as it tried to break out of Sirte, attempting to drive three kilometres through hostile territory before it was scattered and brought to a halt by rebel fighters. It is possible that Dhao did not know that the first missiles to hit the Gaddafi convoy as it tried to flee came from the air.

What is clear is that at around 8am on Thursday, as National Transitional Council fighters launched a final assault to capture the last remaining buildings in Sirte, in an area about 700 metres square, the pro-Gaddafi forces had also readied a large convoy to break out.

But if Dhao was not aware of the air strike, then neither did Nato’s air controllers and liaison officers with the NTC fighters know that Gaddafi was in the convoy of 75 cars attempting to flee Sirte, a fact revealed in a lengthy statement on Friday.

“At the time of the strike,” a spokesman said, “Nato did not know that Gaddafi was in the convoy. These armed vehicles were leaving Sirte at high speed and were attempting to force their way around the outskirts of the city. The vehicles were carrying a substantial amount of weapons and ammunition, posing a significant threat to the local civilian population. The convoy was engaged by a Nato aircraft to reduce the threat.”

(Video) Bloodied Colonel Gaddafi filmed pleading with his captors before death

It was that air attack – which destroyed around a dozen cars – that dispersed the convoy into several groups, the largest numbering about 20. As NTC fighters descended on the fleeing groups of cars, some individuals jumped from their vehicles to escape on foot, among them Gaddafi and a group of guards. Finding a trail of blood, NTC fighters followed it to a sandy culvert with two storm drains. In one of these Gaddafi was hiding.

Accounts here differ. According to some fighters quoted after the event, he begged his captors not to shoot. Others say he asked of one: “What did I do to you?” But it is what happened next that is the source of controversy.

What is certain from several of the clips of video footage – most telling that shot by Ali Algadi – is that Gaddafi was dazed but still alive, although possibly already fatally wounded. The question is what happens between this and later images of a lifeless Gaddafi lying on the ground having his shirt stripped off and propped in the back of a pickup truck and the next sequence which shows him dead.

Here the accounts differ wildly. According to one fighter, caught on camera, he was shot in the stomach with a 9mm pistol. According to doctors not present at his capture and ambulance staff, Gaddafi was shot in the head. Some NTC officials have said anonymously he was “killed after capture”, while others have said he was killed after capture in a crossfire.

If there are suspicions that Gaddafi was summarily killed, already raised by Amnesty and UN human rights officials, they have been deepened by the death, too, of his son Mo’atissim in even more dubious circumstances. He was filmed alive but wounded smoking a cigarette and drinking from a bottle of water, before the announcement that he also had died.

On Saturday, in the cold storage unit where Gaddafi’s body was being stored as the family demanded its release for burial, those filing in to film his corpse were less bothered about how he had died than the legacy of his 42-year rule. “There’s something in our hearts we want to get out,” Abdullah al-Suweisi, 30, told Reuters as he waited. “It is the injustice of 40 years. There is hatred inside. We want to see him.”

And in confirming that Gaddafi is no more, the Libyan people want to bring the final curtain down on his tyranny.

(Video) Libya: Gaddafi vows "I will not leave this land"

FAQs

How did Gaddafi's rule end? ›

Gaddafi's government was overthrown in the wake of the fall of Tripoli to the rebel forces on 20 August 2011, although pockets of resistance held by forces in support of Gaddafi's government held out for another two months, especially in Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, which he declared the new capital of Libya on 1 ...

Is Gaddafi really dead? ›

What did Gaddafi say about Switzerland? ›

Gaddafi in reference to the Swiss ban on minarets described Switzerland as an "infidel harlot" (كافرة فاجرة) and apostate. He called for a "jihad by all means", defining jihad as "a right to armed struggle", which he claimed should not be considered terrorism.

Is Libya still at war? ›

During both civil wars, the output of Libya's economically crucial oil industry collapsed to a small fraction of its usual level, with most facilities blockaded or damaged by rival groups, despite having the largest oil reserves of any African country. On October 23, 2020, parties signed a permanent ceasefire.

What is Jamahiriya? ›

Jamahiriya (Arabic: جماهيرية jamāhīriyyah) is an Arabic word that is difficult to translate but is most commonly expressed in English as "State of the masses" or "People's republic". It may also refer to: a concept in the Political philosophy of Muammar Gaddafi.

Is Libya safe? ›

Violent fighting is widespread and ongoing in Libya. The security situation is very unstable. There's a high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping and crime. Don't travel to Libya.

Who is in charge of Libya today? ›

List of heads of state of Libya
Chairman of the Presidential Council of the State of Libya
Incumbent Mohamed al-Menfi since 15 March 2021
Government of National Unity
StyleMr. Chairman His Excellency
StatusHead of state
5 more rows

Who is president of Libya now? ›

2022
NomineeAbdul Hamid DbeibehKhalifa Haftar
PartyIndependentIndependent
1 more row

Is Libya a good place to live? ›

OVERALL RISK : HIGH. Libya isn't safe and many governments are advising their citizens against traveling to Libya because of the current conflict following the bloody war to oust the Gadaffi dictatorship.

Is Libya rich or poor? ›

Economy of Libya
Statistics
GDP per capita rank84th (nominal, 2018) 102nd (PPP, 2018)
GDP by sectoragriculture 1.3% industry 63.8% services 34.9% (2017 est.)
Inflation (CPI)9.293% (2018)
Population below poverty lineNA% about one-third of Libyans live at or below the national poverty line
35 more rows

Is Libya poor? ›

In 2021, nearly 306 million people in Libya were living in extreme poverty, with the poverty threshold at 1.90 U.S. dollars a day. The number of poor people in the country fluctuated significantly in the period examined, peaking at over 1.3 million in 2020, probably influenced by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

What is Libya's official name? ›

Libya (/ˈlɪbiə/ ( listen); Arabic: ليبيا, romanized: Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya (Arabic: دولة ليبيا, romanized: Dawlat Lībiyā, Italian: Stato della Libia), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa.

Which country is Jamaria? ›

Jamaica, island country of the West Indies. It is the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea, after Cuba and Hispaniola. Jamaica is about 146 miles (235 km) long and varies from 22 to 51 miles (35 to 82 km) wide.

What was Gaddafi's theory? ›

Gaddafi offers to create a special hierarchical structure of people's congresses and committees, resulting in a system where "management becomes popular, control becomes popular, and the old definition of democracy as 'control of people over the government' is replaced by its new definition as 'the people's control ...

Is India safe to visit? ›

Exercise increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism. Do not travel to: The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir (except the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh) due to terrorism and civil unrest. Within 10 km of the India-Pakistan border due to the potential for armed conflict.

Is Russia a safe country? ›

OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM. Generally speaking, Russia today is safe as much as other countries in Europe, despite its problematic history with criminal activity in the 90s.

Is Morocco safe to visit? ›

Morocco is, for the most part, a safe country to visit. Its crime rates are relatively low, but it is advised to remain vigilant at all times and keep your valuables in a safe place. It is a friendly Muslim country, so it is expected of tourists to be respectful of Islamic culture and customs.

Is Libya richer than Nigeria? ›

Libya vs Nigeria: Economic Indicators Comparison

Nigeria with a GDP of $397.3B ranked the 32nd largest economy in the world, while Libya ranked 86th with $48.4B. By GDP 5-years average growth and GDP per capita, Nigeria and Libya ranked 132nd vs 144th and 149th vs 91st, respectively.

What was Libya called in the Bible? ›

1 Chronicles 1:8). The name Put (or Phut) is used in the Bible for Ancient Libya, but a few scholars proposed the Land of Punt known from Ancient Egyptian annals.

Why is Libya flag green? ›

It was chosen by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to symbolise his political philosophy (after his Green Book). The green colour traditionally symbolises Islam, reflecting the historical green banners of the Fatimid Caliphate. In Libya, green was also a colour traditionally used to represent the Tripolitania region.

Who colonized Libya? ›

Abstract. The colonization of Libya by Italy during the years 1911–1940 has left a legacy of continuing resentment between the two peoples.

Where is Libya located? ›

The fourth-largest country in Africa, Libya is bigger than the state of Alaska. The country borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Tunisia and Algeria to the west, Niger and Chad to the south, and Sudan and Egypt to the east.

What was Gaddafi's downfall? ›

Killing of Muammar Gaddafi
Date20 October 2011
LocationSirte, Libya 31°11′44″N 16°31′17″E
ResultMuammar Gaddafi killed End of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and his rule over Libya.

Who is in charge of Libya today? ›

List of heads of state of Libya
Chairman of the Presidential Council of the State of Libya
Incumbent Mohamed al-Menfi since 15 March 2021
Government of National Unity
StyleMr. Chairman His Excellency
StatusHead of state
5 more rows

Who is president of Libya now? ›

2022
NomineeAbdul Hamid DbeibehKhalifa Haftar
PartyIndependentIndependent
1 more row

Why did NATO intervene in Libya? ›

On 19 March 2011, a multi-state NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya, to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, in response to events during the First Libyan Civil War.

Is Libya safe? ›

Violent fighting is widespread and ongoing in Libya. The security situation is very unstable. There's a high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping and crime. Don't travel to Libya.

Why is Libya flag green? ›

It was chosen by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to symbolise his political philosophy (after his Green Book). The green colour traditionally symbolises Islam, reflecting the historical green banners of the Fatimid Caliphate. In Libya, green was also a colour traditionally used to represent the Tripolitania region.

Is Libya a good place to live? ›

OVERALL RISK : HIGH. Libya isn't safe and many governments are advising their citizens against traveling to Libya because of the current conflict following the bloody war to oust the Gadaffi dictatorship.

Is Libya richer than Nigeria? ›

Libya vs Nigeria: Economic Indicators Comparison

Nigeria with a GDP of $397.3B ranked the 32nd largest economy in the world, while Libya ranked 86th with $48.4B. By GDP 5-years average growth and GDP per capita, Nigeria and Libya ranked 132nd vs 144th and 149th vs 91st, respectively.

Is Libya rich or poor? ›

Economy of Libya
Statistics
GDP per capita rank84th (nominal, 2018) 102nd (PPP, 2018)
GDP by sectoragriculture 1.3% industry 63.8% services 34.9% (2017 est.)
Inflation (CPI)9.293% (2018)
Population below poverty lineNA% about one-third of Libyans live at or below the national poverty line
35 more rows

What is the name of Libya? ›

Libya
State of Libya دولة ليبيا (Arabic) Dawlat Lībiyā Stato della Libia (Italian)
Demonym(s)Libyan
GovernmentUnitary provisional unity government
• Chairman of the Presidential CouncilMohamed al-Menfi
• Vice Chairman of the Presidential CouncilMusa Al-Koni
41 more rows

Who colonized Libya? ›

Abstract. The colonization of Libya by Italy during the years 1911–1940 has left a legacy of continuing resentment between the two peoples.

Where is Libya located? ›

The fourth-largest country in Africa, Libya is bigger than the state of Alaska. The country borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Tunisia and Algeria to the west, Niger and Chad to the south, and Sudan and Egypt to the east.

How many civilians has NATO killed? ›

Human Rights Watch documented and evaluated the impact and effects of the NATO military operation, and confirmed 90 incidents in which civilians died as a result of NATO bombing. These included attacks where cluster bombs were dropped.

Did the US support Gaddafi? ›

2011 Libyan Civil War

The U.S. government cut ties with the Gaddafi regime, and enacted sanctions against senior regime members. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the legitimacy of Gaddafi's regime had been "reduced to zero".

How many people have died in Libya? ›

There have been 502,289 infections and 6,430 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.

Videos

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(AP Archive)
2. Moammar Gadhafi Dead Video: Last Moments Alive Caught on Tape in Sirte: WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO
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3. 'Don't Shoot', Pleaded Gaddafi When Captured
(IndiaTV)
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