President Obama says Libyan rebel forces state that the 69-year-old dictator is dead (Updated)
Gruesome cellphone footage bore witness to the bloody demise of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi on Thursday, apparently at the hands of his own people.
U.S. news telecasts aired video of what was believed to be the corpse of Gaddafi after Libya's transitional government said the former despot was dead.
Another video appeared to show him being captured before his death, alive but wounded, and still another showed him with gunshot wounds to the head.
The Washington Post and other outlets posted a video Gaddafi being dragged off by rebels — suggesting he was killed sometime after they took him into custody (Warning: Graphic):
The video emerged after ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC aired Al Jazeera video of what appeared to be Gaddafi's body.
In the extremely graphic video that showed Gaddafi wounded but alive, the leader is seen splayed on the hood of a truck. He stumbles about and is seen, horrifyingly, in a mob with blood pouring down his head. According to U.S. news reports, a voice can be heard saying, "We want him alive!"
That apparently did not happen. An even more graphic video posted on YouTube shows Gaddafi with a gunshot wound to the head, leading some to speculate that the leader had been executed.
Like the other Arab revolutions that have shaken the Middle East this year, the tools of modern communication accompanied and bore witness to historic events on Thursday.
Fox News' Bill Hemmer narrated the corpse video by saying it "appears to be beyond a shadow of a doubt" footage of the slain Gaddafi. The Guardian posted an AFP still of the images, which is below. All the videos appear to have been taken with cell phones.
Gaddafi appears to be the person in both the capture and corpse videos, and the man or men in both videos seem to be wearing the same clothes.
But U.S. officials would not confirm the death. In an address to the nation, President Obama was careful to say that Libyan forces said he was dead, without saying so himself.
Libya's interim leaders told Reuters that Gaddafi died of wounds suffered on Thursday as rebels overran his hometown of Sirte.
"There was a lot of firing against his group and he died," National Transitional Council official Abdel Majid Mlegta told Reuters. He said Gaddafi, 69, was hit in the head.
Gaddafi, whose tyrannical rule has teetered since an uprising began in February of this year, has been on the run from rebel and NATO forces. He was last heard on August 15, when he called on his followers to liberate Libya from rebels and NATO. "Get ready for the fight," he said. "The blood of martyrs is fuel for the battlefield."
While cable networks broadcast images from the streets of Tripoli, network broadcasters initially continued their normal programming: "Regis and Kelly" featured an interview with comedian Carrot Top. NBC's "Today" showed a tarantula crawling across the arm of a woman once terrified of spiders. CBS's "The Doctors" featured an expert telling viewers what the appearance of their nasal mucus could tell them about their health.
The lack of U.S. confirmation may explain why the networks didn't immediately switch to Gaddafi coverage. CBS, ABC and NBC later showed the apparent corpse images, and ABC's "The View" showed a 1989 Barbara Walters interview with Gaddafi.
As news of the death and the images spread online, "Gaddafi" quickly became a trending topic on Twitter, as did other terms related to the story. Other popular terms included Al Jazeera, NTC (an abbreviation for the National Transitional Council that appeared in a Drudge Report headline announcing the death), and "Khaddafy."