New videos help piece together Gaddafi's last minutes

(Warning: Some of the videos included in this post are extremely disturbing)



An examination of several brief video clips that have emerged since Col. Moammar el-Gaddafi and his son Muatassim were killed on Thursday seems to suggest that both men suffered their fatal wounds sometime after they were captured. Their dead bodies were later put on display in the city of Misurata.

At the end of a revolution against the Gaddafi family's rule that was, in part, propelled by video of protests and repression recorded on cell phones and distributed through social media, Reuters has posted graphic footage of Libyans crowding around the bodies of Colonel Gaddafi and Muatassim Gaddafi, eagerly capturing digital images of the two corpses as souvenirs. The gruesome images of both men appear to offer clues as to how they died.

The Reuters video of Colonel Gaddafi's body, stripped to the waist and awaiting burial in a commercial meat locker, concludes with close-up images of what appears to be a wound from a gunshot to the left side of his head.

The news agency's video of Muatassim Gaddafi's body, on display in a house on Thursday night, zooms in on a gaping hole in his throat.

While it is difficult to determine the exact chronology of all of the clips posted online in the last 36 hours, the first images of Colonel Gaddafi in captivity (embedded at the top of this post) appear to have been taken by Ali Algadi, a rebel fighter with an iPhone. Mr. Algadi told the American news site GlobalPost, which obtained and published his video, that he began recording just seconds after the former Libyan leader was dragged from a drainage pipe beneath a road near the city of Surt on Thursday.

While the scene is chaotic, and the iPhone footage is shaky, it is clear that Colonel Gaddafi was still alive when he was captured and able to stand, although he was clearly dazed and the left side of his face was splattered with blood. The video also shows that several of the men who took custody of the deposed leader were dressed in camouflage shirts or pants, and at least one man in the background seems to have been wearing what looks like a bulletproof vest.

Tracey Shelton, who obtained the footage for GlobalPost, reported that Colonel Gaddafi's captors "can be heard shouting, 'Don't kill him! Don't kill him! We need him alive!' throughout the footage."

Speaking to CNN on Friday from the spot where Colonel Gaddafi was captured, Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said that an examination of some of the 95 dead Gaddafi loyalists discovered there suggested that some had died in battle but that others might have been executed.

So far, he added, there appeared to be no evidence that there was a battle in the area after Colonel Gaddafi's capture, which raised questions about whether or not he had been summarily executed. Mr. Bouckaert also told CNN that an autopsy on Colonel Gaddafi's body should be carried out under international supervision.

As my colleagues Kareem Fahim and Rick Gladstone reported, the video evidence of Colonel Gaddafi being paraded and abused by his captors seems to undercut statements by Libya's interim government that he was killed in cross-fire during a battle.

None of the new video clips of Colonel Gaddafi in captivity that have emerged on Friday show any sign of a battle.

A video clip posted on YouTube early Friday by a video blogger in Benghazi begins with images of a dazed Colonel Gaddafi on the ground, before his captors picked him up and placed him on the hood of a pickup truck, perhaps so that they could pose with him for souvenir images.



At one point in this clip, as a man wagged his finger in the deposed leader's face, Colonel Gaddafi reached up to stop him, and then wiped blood away from the left side of his head, revealing a wound. Later in the video, the person recording it walked away and turned the camera on himself. In the background, shots could be heard, but the fact that the videographer then took his own helmet off and continued filming seemed to suggest that the shooting was part of a celebration not a battle.

More than one person can be seen filming the scene in the clip above, and Al Arabiya, an Arabic satellite channel, posted video on its YouTube channel on Friday that appears to have been shot at the same time. The video obtained by Al Arabiya features closer images of Colonel Gaddafi on the ground, before he was lifted onto the hood of the truck, and makes clear that one of his captors was brandishing a pistol close to his head during the melee.



Another clip, in which some of the video appears upside-down, seems to offer a third angle on the same scene.

The first video to emerge of Colonel Gaddafi in captivity, which appeared on Thursday, seems to have been filmed after the other four clips, since it begins with him on the hood of the truck.



Although new video could well appear in the hours and days ahead, at the moment these appear to be the final images of Colonel Gaddafi alive.

As The Lede noted on Thursday, video broadcast by an Arab satellite channel appeared to show that Muatassim Gaddafi was also captured alive.



Since then, more video of Muatassim Gaddafi in custody has appeared online. In one clip, posted on Facebook on Thursday night, the former leader's son even seems quite relaxed, calmly smoking a cigarette as he is guarded by an armed man in uniform.



In a second clip filmed in the same location, and posted on the YouTube channel of a Libyan from Misurata, the Gaddafi son who was once welcomed in foreign capitals as his country's national security adviser sits on cushions on a floor drinking water.



A third short video filmed in the same room shows the younger Gaddafi checking a wound but clearly still alive.



Two more video clips recorded some time later show Muatassim Gaddafi after his death. In the first of these clips, as in the Reuters video of his body on display in Misurata, there is a large wound at the top of his chest, which was not apparent in any of the clips filmed while he was alive and in custody.



Story First Published: October 22, 2011 10:23 IST

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