As Libyans on the streets of Tripoli and Sirte fired automatic weapons into the air and danced for joy, world leaders began to weigh in on the death of the man who had ruled the oil-rich north African nation for 42 years.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Gaddafi’s death was an occasion to remember his victims, while hailing it as a chance for a “democratic future” for Libya.
“I think today is a day to remember all of Colonel Gaddafi’s victims” including those who died in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, Cameron said in a statement outside his office.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe hailed the “end of 42 years of tyranny” in Libya and said France was “proud” to have helped bring freedom to the country, referring to the role of French forces in NATO action in Libya during the seven-month conflict.
“The announcement of the death of Gaddafi and the collapse of Sirte is the end of a very difficult period for the Libyan people. It’s the end of 42 years of tyranny, of a military conflict that has been very difficult for the Libyan people,” Juppe told reporters in New Delhi.
“It’s a historic event. It’s the beginning of a new period, of a democracy, freedom and the rebuilding of the country,” he added.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Gaddafi’s death ushered in a “historic transition” for Libya.
In Rome, Libya’s former colonial ruler, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said after the death of his onetime ally: “Now the war is over.”
“Sic transit gloria mundi (Thus passes the glory of the world),” Berlusconi said about the ousted ruler of Italy’s former colony, quoting a Latin tag.
In Brussels, the European Union said Gaddafi’s death “marks the end of an era of despotism”.
The news means an end also to the “repression from which the Libyan people have suffered for too long”, EU president Herman Van Rompuy said in a joint statement with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.
European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek will visit Libya from Saturday.
“I am happy I will be visiting a country fully liberated from a dictator who has imposed his iron fist for more than 40 years. Now Libya can truly turn the page,” he said.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Libyans “can now look to the future”.
In a statement, Ashton said that “if confirmed” the death of Gaddafi “brings closure to a tragic period in the lives of so many Libyans”.
“After 10 months of extraordinary sacrifices, the Libyan people can say with pride and confidence that they have shaken off a regime that terrorised and oppressed for more than 40 years.”
She urged the new leadership to build a democratic future in full respect for human rights, saying that “while the crimes of the past must be addressed, the leadership must also seek a path of national reconciliation.”
The EU will remain “a strong and committed” partner in the future, Ashton said.
The current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, Poland, warned Gaddafi’s fate “should be a warning to other dictators in the region and in the world”.
A Polish foreign ministry statement said Warsaw would have liked to have Gaddafi “tried for his crimes before a court in Libya or in The Hague”.
“We hope that his collaborators, wanted for crimes, will soon be brought before the courts,” it added. “We congratulate the Libyan people on bringing to an ultimate end the dictatorship of many years’ standing.”
In Washington, senior US Senator John McCain said the death marked the end of the first phase of the Libyan revolution.
“While some final fighting continues, the Libyan people have liberated their country,” the Republican lawmaker said in a statement.
“Now the Libyan people can focus all of their immense talents on strengthening their national unity, rebuilding their country and economy, proceeding with their democratic transition, and safeguarding the dignity and human rights of all Libyans,” said McCain.
“The United States, along with our European allies and Arab partners, must now deepen our support for the Libyan people, as they work to make the next phase of their democratic revolution as successful as the fight to free their country,” he said.
Gaddafi was fatally wounded when new regime forces launched a final assault on the last pocket of resistance in his hometown Sirte, a National Transitional Council spokesman said.
“We announce to the world that Gaddafi has died in the custody of the revolution,” Abdel Hafez Ghoga, a spokesman for the National Transitional Council (NTC), Libya’s new rulers, said in announcing the news.
“It is a historic moment. It is the end of tyranny and dictatorship. Gaddafi has met his fate,” he added.