MISRATA, Libya(ANN) Moammar Gadhafi, the dictator who ruled Libya for 42 years, was buried early Tuesday in an unmarked grave with only a few people allowed to attend. The modest Islamic ceremony closed the book on the 8-month civil war that ousted him and ended in thegruesome spectacle of people lining up for days to view his decomposing corpse on display in a cold storage unit.
A Gadhafi nephew read a prayer for the dead before Gadhafi’s body — along with those of his son Muatassim and former defense minister Abu Bakr Younis — were handed over for burial, said Ibrahim Beitalmal, a spokesman for the military council in the port city of Misrata.
The bodies had been kept in a commercial refrigerator in Misrata for four days before they were taken under cover of darkness to the burial site, which Beitalmal said was “not far” from the city. As part of the ceremony, the bodies were washed in line with Islamic tradition. A Muslim cleric, a nephew of Gadhafi and sons of Abu Bakr then recited prayers before handing the bodies over for burial, which took place at 5 a.m.
Libya’s new leaders have said they would not reveal the location of the grave, fearing it could be vandalized or turned into a shrine for die-hard supporters.
Gadhafi was captured alive on Thursday as he tried to flee his hometown of Sirte, where he had been hiding since revolutionary forces swept into the capital, Tripoli, two months earlier.
He died later that day in unclear circumstances, and Libyan leaders have promised an investigation in response to international pressure to look into how he was killed. Video has emerged showing Gadhafi being beaten and abused by a mob after his capture, and researchers for the New York-based Human Rights Watch have said there are strong indications he was killed in custody.
Human rights activists have warned that the new Libya could get off on the wrong foot if vigilante justice is condoned. However, many Libyans appeared relieved that Gadhafi is dead, saying a long trial for the former dictator would have been disruptive and made it harder on the country to get a fresh start.
Earlier this week, interim leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil formally declared an end to the civil war, starting the clock on what is to be a two-year transition to democracy.
The bodies of Gadhafi, Muatassim and Younis had been kept in a refrigerated produce locker in a warehouse area of Misrata for the past four days. Hundreds lined up every day to view the corpses, some coming from hundreds of miles away. Visitors donned surgical masks, and at times guards arranged separate lines for men and women.
Misrata suffered immensely during the war. It was besieged for nearly two month this spring by Gadhafi forces, who shelled the city indiscriminately before being pushed out in fierce street fighting. Gadhafi was captured by fighters from Misrata, who brought him back to the city as a trophy.
International organizations asking to see the burial site would be given access, Beitalmal said.
Over the weekend, Libya’s chief pathologist, Dr. Othman el-Zentani, performed autopsies on the three bodies and also took DNA samples to confirm their identities. El-Zentani has said Gadhafi died from a shot to the head, and said the full report would be released later this week, after he presents his findings to the attorney general.
Gadhafi and Muatassim had been wounded before capture, but an investigation is to determine how they ended up dead. Government officials have suggested Gadhafi was killed in crossfire.
Tirana Hassan, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said she spoke Monday to a 30-year-old Sirte resident who had traveled in the convoy that tried to smuggle Gadhafi out of Sirte.
Hassan quoted the woman as saying that Gadhafi did not sustain serious injuries during the NATO strike on the convoy.
The woman said the former Libyan leader and members of his entourage left their vehicle after the attack and took cover for about three hours in an abandoned building. Gadhafi then left the hideout with a small group on foot, and they were captured a short while later, Hassan quoted the woman as saying.
The woman, who had volunteered at a field clinic in Sirte treating wounded Gadhafi loyalists, was released by the revolutionary forces and has returned to Sirte, Hassan said.
The Libyan uprising that began in mid-February and quickly turned into civil war has decimated the Gadhafi family.
His wife, Safiya, fled to Algeria with their daughter and one son, while another son fled to Niger. At least other three sons — Muatassim, Seif al-Arab and Khamis — have been killed. Another son, former heir apparent Seif al-Islam, remains at large.
A high-ranking Tuareg official in Niger said Tuesday that Seif al-Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, is headed for Niger with the help of ethnic Tuaregs, a tribe that was among Gadhafi’s strongest supporters.
Also Tuesday, Bani, a revolutionary spokesman, said an explosion rocked a fuel depot near Sirte a day earlier and that there were casualties. Bani said the blast is being treated as an accident, but that an investigation has been opened.
Hassan, the Human Rights Watch researcher, said that while in Sirte on Monday, said she saw 11 people with severe burns arrive at the city’s Ibn Sina hospital. Nurses said the injuries were from the blast.
The new Libya is considering how it will live by Islamic Sharia law, which includes some traditional practices which some countries consider inhumane.
Many Westerners were among those horrified when this vision was voiced just days ago amid celebrations over the death of Colonel Gaddafi.
It was by no means the first time such a prospect was raised, when the chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council, said: “We as a Muslim nation take Sharia as the basic source of law.”
But Mustafa Abdul-Jalil then softened this. The former minister of justice under the old regime has in the past been praised as fair and reasonable by international human rights bodies.
He said: “I want to assure the international community that we, as Libyans, are moderate Muslims.”
The political dimension to this is significant, as Islamists who opposed Gaddafi’s rule are expected to be part of the next government. It was their forces, after all, largely responsible for toppling him, who were in the front fighting lines.
Libya specialists do not see this as inconsistent. Gaddafi’s Libya was already a state of mixed values.
Interpretation of Sharia, which means ‘the way of God’s law’, differs. Modernists, traditionalists and fundamentalists hold different views. Customs, behaviour and penalties can be sources of intense debate.
Most Muslim countries’ legal systems are based on Sharia. Some apply it in a form considered radical by outsiders. This is the case in powerful Persian Gulf states and the Arabian peninsula, and in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some African countries. But in Egypt and Syria Sharia is applied moderately.
Western-based liberal jurisprudence has little chance of being given banner headlines in Libya’s evolving society, though western-developed institutions have been referred to in papers drafted to prepare the country’s future.
Gender-equality is a concern. Sharia applied to families governs marriage, divorce and child support and custody. In some countries, the law covers whether a woman may work, drive or have a bank account. For women then, freedom from Gaddafi is no guarantee of freedom in a modern democratic sense.