REPORTS: GADHAFI DEAD

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) — Conflicting reports surfaced Thursday that deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is dead or has been captured. Deafening celebrations erupted in Tripoli, but none of the reports could be independently verified.
Gadhafi was killed, AbdelHakim Bilhajj, head of the National Transitional Council’s military arm in Tripoli announced live on Al-Jazeera Arabic Thursday. Gadhafi’s death was also reported by National Transitional Council television station Al-Ahrar. It did not cite a source.
A cell phone photograph distributed by the news agency Agence France Presse appeared to show the arrest of a bloodied Gadhafi. CNN could not independently verify the authenticity of the image.
Gadhafi’s capture was also reported by Libyan television, citing the Misrata Military Council.
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Earlier, a National Transitional Council military spokesman told CNN that reports of Gadhafi’s capture are only rumors. Abdurahman Bousin added that it’s doubtful that Gadhafi was even in or around his hometown of Sirte.
A “big fish” has been captured in Libya, but Libyan Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam couldn’t say with certainty whether it was Gadhafi.
The U.S. State Department could not confirm any of the reports about Gadhafi’s capture or killing, a spokeswoman said.
In another major development, revolutionary fighters said they wrested control of Sirte Thursday. And NATO said it is going to convene soon for a meeting to discuss ending its operation in Libya, a source told CNN.
Earlier, NATO aircraft struck two pro-Gadhafi military vehicles in the Sirte vicinity.
Without foolproof evidence of Gadhafi’s capture, it was unclear whether Thursday would turn out to be the biggest day in recent Libyan history. Statements made by representatives of Libya’s new leadership in the past have not always turned out to be true.
Still, Libyans erupted in joy. Horns blared and celebratory gunfire burst into the air in Tripoli.
Gadhafi ruled Libya with an iron fist for 42 years. The mercurial leader came to power in a bloodless coup against King Idris in 1969, when he was just an army captain.
But a February uprising evolved into civil war that resulted in ousting the strongman from power.
Many were waiting for photographs as proof of Gadhafi’s capture.
Earlier, anti-Gadhafi fighters said they had taken control of the last holdout of loyalists in Sirte. They said they were still battling pockets of resistance, but they were in control of District 2.
Sirte has been the big prize for Libya’s NTC, waiting for the city to fall to officially declare liberation.
Most residents abandoned Sirte in the many weeks of bloody battles that raged there. Revolutionary forces have fought Gadhafi’s men street by street, cornering the last vestiges of the old regime to that last district.
Gadhafi, wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, for alleged crimes against humanity has not been seen in public in months. Many believed he was hiding out in Sirte after rebel forces marched into Tripoli in August.

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