Moammar Gadhafi, who ruled Libya with a dictatorial grip for 42 years until he was ousted by his own people in an uprising that turned into a bloody civil war, was killed Thursday by revolutionary fighters overwhelming his hometown, Sirte, the last major bastion of resistance two months after his regime fell.
The 69-year-old Gadhafi is the first leader to be killed in the Arab Spring wave of popular uprisings that swept the Middle East, demanding the end of autocratic rulers and the establishment of greater democracy.
"We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Moammar Gadhafi has been killed," Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told a news conference in the capital Tripoli. Interim government officials said one of Gadhafi's sons, Muatassim, was also killed in Sirte and that another, Seif al-Islam, was captured wounded with a gunshot to the leg.
Footage aired on Al-Jazeera television showed Gadhafi was captured wounded but alive in Sirte. The goateed, balding Gadhafi is seen in a bloodsoaked shirt, and his face is bloodied. Standing upright, he is shoved along by a crowd of fighters on a Sirte roadside, chanting "God is great."
Gadhafi appears to struggle against them, stumbling and shouting as the fighters push him onto the hood of a pickup truck. "We want him alive. We want him alive," one man shouts before Gadhahi is dragged away, some fighters pulling his hair, toward an ambulance.
Later footage showed fighters rolling Gadhafi's lifeless body over on the pavement, stripped to the waist and a pool of blood under his head.
His death decisively ends a regime that had turned Libya into an international pariah and ran the oil-rich nation by the whims and brutality of its notoriously eccentric leader. Libya now enters a new era, but its turmoil may not be over. The former rebels who now rule are disorganized and face rebuilding a country stripped of institutions. They have already shown signs of infighting, with divisions between geographical areas and Islamist and more secular ideologies.
A picture began to emerge of Gadhafi's last hours, though accounts still held contradictions.
Most accounts agreed Gadhafi had been holed up with heavily armed supporters in the last few buildings held by regime loyalists in his Mediterranean coastal hometown of Sirte, furiously battling advancing revolutionary fighters.
At one point, a convoy tried to flee and was hit by NATO airstrikes, carried out by French warplanes. France's Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said the 80-vehicle convoy was carrying Gadhafi and was trying to escape the city. The strikes stopped the convoy but did not destroy it, and then revolutionary fighters moved in on the vehicle carrying Gadhafi himself.
Image: A grab from a video taken from the mobile phone of a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows the arrest of Libya's strongman Moammar Gadhafi in Sirte on October 20, 2011.