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Developments In Libya: Sirte Defeated; Gadhafi Dead?


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Reports are streaming in this morning that Libya's Moammar Gadhafi has been captured. And just moments ago, the interim government's information minister told CNN that Gadhafi is dead. A NATO official has cautioned that it will take time to confirm these reports.

What we do know is that the hometown of Moammar Gadhafi has fallen after a brutal months-long battle that cost thousands of lives and left the town in ruins.

Joining us in the studio to discuss these developments and more is NPR's foreign editor Loren Jenkins. Good morning.

LOREN JENKINS, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Bring us up to date on what we know and what we're hearing about the fate of Moammar Gadhafi.

JENKINS: Well, as can be expected, you know, reports are rather confused right now. What we do know is that the town of Sirte - Moammar Gadhafi's hometown, which has been resisting the rebels for over a month - has fallen. And the reports about Gadhafi have been coming rather mixed. They started out by saying he was wounded, shot in the legs in a final battle and was being taken off to Misrata as a prisoner.

We later heard that he actually hadn't been wounded but had tried to - other reports said he'd basically tried to escape in a caravan of his supporters that was either ambushed or bombed by NATO bombers, and might be wounded. Now, we're hearing reports that he's actually dead. Both the Transitional National Government has said that he's dead, various spokesmen have. But no one can confirm it right now.

MONTAGNE: So, we're talking about percentages here as to whether this might turn out to be true or not. If reports of his capture and death are true or will eventually be true, what does that mean for Libya? I mean, there would - people would have said a while ago that Libya had moved on from Gadhafi.

JENKINS: Well, not at all. I mean, they've been fighting him now for the last month as long as he was alive and opposing and leading his supporters to oppose the revolution there. He was a factor, and there could be no peace. What this means now is that Libya will in fact move on - if Gadhafi has been captured or killed - into the next phase, which is trying to form a real government that would rule the whole country. The country remains divided. It's always been divided historically between east and west. And that continues.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, there's celebration all through Libya, both because of the fall of Sirte and these reports about the possible death or capture of Moammar Gadhafi. I mean, you're hearing gunfire and just seeing people dance in the streets actually. What, you know, would you estimate are the chances that this is a country that can come together?

JENKINS: Well, it's really difficult to say, Renee. As I say, historically, the country has been divided. It's divided across tribal lines. It's divided geographically between the east and west. It only became united as a country in the last century. And it's always had rival powers between Tripoli and Benghazi. And the rebel government began in the east in Benghazi and had been fighting Gadhafi supporters who are mostly concentrated in the west. That remains.

And how do you unite them? How do you bring them together? Now, you have dozens of autonomous armed militias from various towns that have been fighting Gadhafi. The countries are washed with guns and weaponry. How do you bring that all together and move into a peaceful democratic form of government? I think it's going to be really problematic.

MONTAGNE: And just briefly, what about NATO at this point in time, does this spell the end of this mission for NATO?

JENKINS: It has to. Once Gadhafi's dead, if in fact he is dead, I think NATO will stand down. Their mission has been accomplished. They supported the rebels and brought down Gadhafi's government.

MONTAGNE: Loren, thanks very much.

JENKINS: Thank you, Renee. It's always a pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Loren Jenkins is NPR's foreign editor, speaking to us about the reports coming in that Moammar Gadhafi is dead. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.