Friday, October 21, 2011

the spoils

To the victor, the spoils as a bloody chapter closes
Kareem Fahim
October 22, 2011

A fighter shows Gaddafi's clothes.Photo: Reuters
THEY had the ultimate trophies of the revolution: the colonel's golden gun, his satellite phone, his brown scarf and one black boot.

A small group of fighters from Misrata, the vanguard of the force attacking Muammar Gaddafi's home town and final hideout, Sirt, said they had stumbled on him hiding in a drainage pipe. He was bleeding from his head and chest, but he was well enough to speak, with his trademark indignation.

''When he saw us, he said, 'What's happening?' Those were the words that he spoke,'' said Omran Shaaban, 21, a Misrata fighter who said he and a friend were the first men in their unit to find Gaddafi.
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On Thursday night, Mr Shaaban, a student, and his colleagues celebrated their victory in the local council meeting room, hugging one another and passing around the colonel's prized last possessions. It was a windfall of spoils for the young men, who have lived only half as long as Gaddafi ruled Libya.

Misrata suffered grievously under a long siege by Gaddafi's troops in the spring. It responded with rage, sending out its battle-hardened fighters, first to capture Tripoli and, on Thursday, Sirt. As the bodies of Gaddafi and his son Muatassim were displayed for onlookers in private homes, it struck many Misratans as a fitting end.

The Misrata fighters who caught Gaddafi set out about 10am Thursday to support the final assault on Sirt, according to Munir Senussi, 21, one of the fighters.

''We used the coast road,'' he said. ''We were told it was empty.'' But instead, they found the remains of a convoy that had been hit by a NATO air strike. ''We started to hit them with heavy weapons,'' he said. ''We had no idea Gaddafi was there.''

Mr Shaaban said that he and the other fighters jumped on him, but he insisted that Gaddafi's mortal wounds were already visible. The bodies of other men were near the drainage pipe, he said, but none of them were the colonel's sons.

Amid the other souvenirs of war, the big prize was Gaddafi's body.

World leaders praised the Libyan people for ending Gaddafi's regime, with US President Barack Obama declaring: ''Today belongs to the people of Libya. This is a moment for them.''

Ali Tarhouni, the interim government's finance and oil minister, came to Misrata to confirm the colonel's death on behalf of the cabinet. Tarhouni had met Gaddafi when he was a student. ''I was looking at the corpse,'' Mr Tarhouni said, ''and thinking of all the comrades and friends who spent decades fighting him that didn't live to see this day.''


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