U.S. officials are reviewing reports that former Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi was killed by rebel forces on October 20 following his capture near his hometown of Sirte. According to media reports, Gadhafi was wounded in the head and legs as he tried to flee in a convoy that came under attack from NATO warplanes at dawn, a senior official with Libya's National Transitional Council said. The former leader was apparently first taken away by ambulance and subsequently died. No independent confirmation is available.
Gadhafi's death followed months of NATO air strikes and other military action in Libya in concert with rebel forces following a government crackdown against pro-democracy protesters emboldened by protests in Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt. In the so-called Arab Spring, the dictatorships of the latter two states were brought down even while the revolutions’ end-game has yet to be determined.
The United States led the initial air strikes on Gadhafi's forces but handed the lead over to NATO, taking a secondary role to Britain and France who helped Libya's rebels take power. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on October 18 became the most senior U.S. official to visit Tripoli since Gaddafi's four-decade rule ended in August. Clinton hailed "Libya's victory," even while some observers noted that the tight security for the senior diplomat evidenced concerns over who may yet establish full control over the oil-rich country. Analysts of the region have noted that the Muslim Brotherhood has made inroads with Libya’s rebels, as has been the case in Tunisia and Egypt.
Gadhafi had been wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of ordering the killing of civilians. He was believed to be hiding deep in Libya's vast Sahara. His wife, two sons and a daughter fled to neighboring Algeria shortly after Tripoli fell to rebel forces in August.
Hundreds of NTC troops had surrounded the Mediterranean coastal town for weeks as scores of the besieging forces and an unknown number of defenders were killed or wounded. There are unconfirmed reports of large numbers of corpses inside the last redoubts of Gadhafi troops. Many of them were mercenaries recruited from sub-Saharan African countries.