Despite a continuing information blockade it is now possible to reconstruct many of the facts of Gaddafi’s murder.
Early on Thursday 20th October 2011 Gaddafi and a group of his supporters including his son Mutaizzim decided to escape from the town of Sirte, where they were under siege. It appears that the escape plan was the work of Mutaizzim, who was the actual commander of the pro Gaddafi troops in Sirte and who may indeed have been Gaddafi’s main army commander from the outset of the uprising back in February. The escape plan involved a breakout from Sirte in a large vehicle convoy consisting of no fewer than 75 vehicles.
The convoy seems to have successfully broken through the rebel defence lines. However it was spotted and attacked first by a US Predator drone and then by French Rafale fighter aircraft. This caused the convoy to break up. Some vehicles may have continued their escape but others were forced to stop and their passengers, one of whom was Gaddafi, dismounted.
It has been said that Gaddafi was injured in the French attack and that after he dismounted from the vehicle convoy that he tried to hide in a drainage pipe. These statements should be treated with caution. In the film showing Gaddafi immediately after his capture he does not appear to be injured whilst there is no film footage of him either in or near the drainage pipe. Both claims could be inventions, the one to explain away Gaddafi’s injuries, the other to make him appear a coward. The fact that several rebel spokesmen have made play of the supposed irony of Gaddafi hiding in a drain pipe after calling the rebels “rats” should make one cautious about the truth of these claims.
Shortly after the French attack on the convoy a unit of rebels from the town of Misurata arrived on the scene. The Daily Telegraph has confirmed information that had already appeared on the internet, which is that the rebels besieging Sirte were being “advised” (in effect commanded) by British SAS troops. In fact the SAS has been present in Libya since the very start of the uprising in February and it is now an open secret that they together with other special forces from France, Qatar and the United States have been on the ground and directing the rebels for many months. The rebel unit that arrived at the scene would therefore have been sent there by its SAS advisers who were presumably in contact with it at all times.
There have again been stories of some sort of a firefight between the rebels and Gaddafi loyalists when the rebels arrived on the scene. As of the time of my writing this post the rebel authorities in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misurata continue to insist that Gaddafi was killed when he was caught in the crossfire during this firefight. There is no evidence that such a firefight ever took place. Not only is there no film of this firefight but there is no information of anyone else killed or injured during it.
At some point and in some way (it is still unclear exactly how) Gaddafi was taken prisoner. The film shows that he was savagely beaten and insulted from the moment of his capture. The film also shows a complete breakdown of whatever discipline amongst the rebels there may have existed. There is no sign of anyone taking charge or of being in control.
A great deal of publicity has been given to claims that on being taken prisoner Gaddafi pleaded for his life. It is entirely plausible that he did. However the film made after his capture does not show this. Instead it shows Gaddafi under a rain of blows repeatedly telling his captors “God does not allow this”. It is clear that what Gaddafi is referring to is his mistreatment. Again one should be wary of claims made by the rebels that appear to be intended to make Gaddafi appear a coward.
There is no clear account of what happened next. There are reports that Gaddafi was driven in an ambulance to Misurata but that he died of his wounds along the way. Again no film of this exists, nor have any photographs been produced of the ambulance involved though one would have expected it to be of obvious interest to the western journalists present and covering the story. What does exist is film of a by now severely injured Gaddafi being pulled off a truck by a group of rebels who subject him to further humiliation and more beatings. There is no information about whether this film was made in Sirte or Misurata. In this film Gaddafi though still conscious and able to walk appears dazed and disorientated and is covered with blood on his face and chest. Notwithstanding claims made to the contrary there is nothing in the film to suggest that this blood was the result of gunshot wounds. Given the savage beating inflicted on Gaddafi when he was captured (which the earlier film shows included kicking and having rocks thrown at his face) the blood is equally likely to have been caused by the effect of this beating. The bullet hole on the left side of his head, which appears in later photographs, is not visible. Gaddafi could anyway scarcely have survived such a shot, which is conclusive evidence that at the time when this film was made he had not yet been shot in this way.
I understand that there is more film, which I have not seen. I have seen a photograph of Gaddafi, by this time covered in blood, with a gun pointed at the right side of his face. I cannot tell from this photograph whether Gaddafi was alive or dead when it was taken.
The next set of photographs clearly show Gaddafi dead. At some point either he or his corpse were brought to Misurata. In defiance of Islamic custom his body was placed in a freezer and put on public display. This continued for several days. Western journalists and diplomats who were shown his body have confirmed the presence of several bullet holes including one on the left side of his head. This bullet hole does indeed appear to be visible in some photographs.
Gaddafi was not the only member of the vehicle convoy to have been captured. The rebels have released a photograph of his son Mutaizzim, which shows that he too was captured. Mutaizzim is shown sitting against a wall and smiling into a camera with rebel soldiers in the background. Another photograph shows him dead. His body has apparently also been placed on display in the same freezer as his father. Western diplomats and journalists who have seen his body have confirmed that he too appears to have been shot in several places. In addition I have seen reports that a senior officer of Gaddafi’s military, perhaps his defence minister, was also shot in a similar way and that his body was also placed on display alongside those of Gaddafi and Mutaizzim.
I have set out the facts about Gaddafi’s death from the information I have been able to piece together from the international media. It shows conclusively and beyond a shadow of a doubt that Gaddafi and his son Mutaizzim were murdered by the rebels some time after they were captured and that this happened after Gaddafi was tortured possibly for several hours by his captors. All this happened moreover notwithstanding the presence in the immediate area of SAS troops who could have intervened to stop it but who did not do so.
That this was a brutal murder scarcely needs saying. The grisly display like a trophy of Gaddafi’s body and that of his son compounds it.
I had expected Gaddafi’s torture and murder, much of it shown on film, to have provoked an outcry and calls for a full inquiry. When Saddam Hussein was hanged a few years ago there was a storm of protest even though that execution followed a trial and was a decorous affair compared to Gaddafi’s murder. Given the direct involvement in the murder of the US, Britain and France, all of whose militaries played a part in it, I was expecting hard questions to be asked of their respective governments. Instead to my astonishment and dismay the response has been muted. In Britain I have found only two comments that live up to the horror of what happened. One was by the redoubtable Craig Murray on his blog. The other was by Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail. No editorial in any of the big newspapers has condemned the manner of Gaddafi’s death and no political leader in any western country has spoken out against it. Instead there has been a revolting display of self congratulation and backslapping and at times even gloating.
Meanwhile the British media continues to report uncritically the claims of the new Libyan authorities that Gaddafi was accidentally killed in a crossfire even though as I have sought to show in this post these claims are demonstrably untrue. The extent of British collusion in the coverup perpetrated by the new Libyan authorities is demonstrated by the British media’s treatment of the subject of Gaddafi’s autopsy. On Saturday 22nd October 2011 the rebel authorities in Misurata categorically ruled an autopsy out The next day it was suddenly announced that an autopsy had in fact already taken place supposedly in secret on the previous day and that it had established that Gaddafi had been killed by a gunshot on the left side of his head. The British media has uncritically accepted the “results” of this “autopsy” though it is clear that no “autopsy” has in fact taken place a fact confirmed by the state of Gaddafi’s body, which as of Monday 24th October 2011 was obviously intact and still on display. The fact that the authorities in Misurata are unwilling to permit an autopsy raises further questions and makes one wonder whether Gaddafi might not in reality have died as a result of the beatings and mistreatment we know he received. The bullet holes in his head and body would then have been inflicted after his death to conceal its cause.
This silence on the part of the British establisment contrasts sharply with the sense of revulsion and disgust felt by many British people as expressed on such sites as Twitter. As on so many other matters the contrast between the general feelings of the British people and that of the political class that purportedly represents them could not be more stark. Unfortunately it is the political class that is the power. On the evidence of its response to Gaddafi’s murder it has lost whatever moral compass it once had.