Provisional government officials in Libya say former leader Moammar Gadhafi has died after being wounded during a battle for control of the town of Sirte. The reports have not been independently confirmed.
Earlier Thursday, military leaders in the National Transitional Council (NTC) said Gadhafi had been taken into custody, and that he was badly wounded.
NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil is expected to address the nation soon.
NTC fighters raised the new Libyan flag in the center of Sirte Thursday morning, and celebratory gunfire and car horns replaced the sniper fire and heavy weaponry that had sounded through the city for weeks.
The capture of Sirte comes near two months after forces loyal to the NTC took control of the capital Tripoli, forcing leader Gadhafi and his family to flee. His son Muatassim is believed to have been among those fighting in Sirte, where NTC fighters conducted a house to house search of the last areas of resistance.
The declaration of victory in Sirte is expected to set in motion a series of political moves leading to elections, a new government and a new constitution – a massive undertaking country that has had 40 years of arbitrary, one-man rule.
The capture follows NTC success in another pro-Gadhafi bastion, Bani Walid, earlier this week. Fighting still continues in southern areas of the country, the vast desert regions bordering Niger, Algeria and Chad. But control of Gadhafi’s hometown provides a geographic as well as symbolic victory, uniting the main population corridor along the coast from east to west.
Libya scholar Ziad Akl of the Ahram Center in Cairo says Gadhafi forces are in a struggle for survival.
“The forces that are pro-Gadhafi, first of all, they are not politically organized, they are not strategically outlined, and they are not fighting actually to gain ground,” said Akl. “They are simply trying to defend the positions they have and stop the revolution from moving on and this is a time- constrained battle.”
If that is the case, a major portion of that battle ended Thursday. voa