How Muammar Qaddafi met his end

Shaky video shows that Muammar Qaddafi was taken alive, but injured, and there are credible reports that one of his sons died with him.

Saad Shalash/Reuters
Libyans wave a Kingdom of Libya flag at Liberation Square in Misrata as they celebrate the fall of Muammar Qaddafi on Thursday. Qaddafi was killed by Libyans he once scorned as 'rats,' succumbing to wounds, some seemingly inflicted after his capture by fighters who overran his last redoubt on Thursday in his hometown of Sirte.

Reuters has the best report from the ground I've seen on Muammar Qaddafi's capture this morning. The reporters on the scene say it seems likely that NATO forces hit a convoy of about 15 vehicles fleeing Sirte to the west, that Qaddafi and the survivors took refuge in a drainpipe off the highway, and that rebel fighters induced them to surrender after a brief firefight.

Sirte, the last regime holdout and Qaddafi's hometown, was finally falling to the uprising at the time Qaddafi fled.

Rebel fighters on the scene told Reuters that Qaddafi was already wounded -- one said he'd been shot in the back and the leg -- at the time they took him into custody. They took him back towards Sirte, where the footage was apparently shot. It shows Qaddafi -- clearly alive, but shaken and wounded -- surrounded by triumphant rebels. The drainpipe detail, given that Qaddafi frequently referred to Libya's rebels as "rats" and other vermin, has been widely noted by many in Libya.

What happened next is uncertain. There are reports out of Libya that a rebel shot and killed him. It's also possible that he succumbed to his injuries, and that's the position of the National Transitional Council. An airstrike, for instance, can do a lot of internal damage that isn't immediately visible. But it seems fairly certain that he was dead within the hour, and his body was taken to Misrata, a city to the west of Sirte that withstood the bloodiest pro-Qaddafi siege of the war.

It's also becoming clear that a large number of his loyalists were either killed or captured in and around Sirte today. Abu Bakr Younes Jaber, Qaddafi's army chief, was killed around the time Qaddafi was captured. His son Mutassim was found dead in Sirte, and pictures of his body circulated on the Internet. Moussa Ibrahim, the regime spokesman whose declarations of imminent victory as Tripoli fell to the rebels this summer were an Internet sensation, was said to have been taken alive. And Al Jazeera reporter that the feared Abdullah Sennusi, probably Qaddafi's most trusted aide after his immediate family, was also reported dead. Mr. Sennusi has been accused by survivors of ordering the massacre of 1,200 prisoners at Abu Salim prison in 1996.

IN PICTURES: Qaddafi through the years

Today is one of major triumph for Libya's revolution, and in a smaller way for the Obama administration and NATO allies that decided to use air-power in support of the rebellion more than months ago now. Below is how Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton got the news of Qaddafi's capture.

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