Libyan government: Gaddafi is dead

There has not yet been confirmation from U.S. officials, but in Libya, there appears to be little doubt about the demise of the former dictator who lost his grip over the country in August.

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the former Libyan strongman who fled into hiding after rebels toppled his regime two months ago in the Arab Spring’s most tumultuous uprising, was killed Thursday as fighters battling the vestiges of his loyalist forces wrested control of his hometown of Surt, the interim government announced.

Al Jazeera television showed what it said was Colonel Qaddafi’s corpse as jubilant fighters in Surt fired automatic weapons in the air, punctuating an emphatic and violent ending to his four decades as a ruthless and bombastic autocrat who basked in his reputation as the self-styled king of kings of Africa.

Libyans rejoiced as news of his death spread. Car horns blared in Tripoli as residents poured into the streets to celebrate.

Mahmoud Shammam, the chief spokesman of the Transitional National Council, the interim government that replaced Colonel Qaddafi’s regime after he fled Tripoli in late August, confirmed that Colonel Qaddafi was killed, though he did not provide other details.

Al Jazeera has also aired graphic footage of a body that appears to be that of Gaddafi. There are conflicting reports as to how, exactly, he was killed — he was reportedly captured alive but injured, only to die soon after. The confrontation was reportedly in Surt, where Gaddafi loyalists still had some control, before being routed by rebels this week.

As this relates to American politics, I’m reminded of a recent tweet from Eli Lake, a national security correspondent for the conservative Washington Times:

Though I imagine the choice of words will be very different, I suspect Obama’s re-election team will be pushing a similar message. Sure, national security policy probably won’t drive the presidential race, but for those who consider the issue, Obama and his team will have a compelling pitch to make.

There’s still a worthwhile debate to be had over whether U.S. intervention in Libya was a wise move, a terrible tragedy, or something in between, but the White House can credibly claim quite a bit of success: the Arab League endorsed intervention from the West; the administration assembled an international coalition with surprising speed; the mission gained approval from the United Nations; and as of this morning, it appears the Gaddafi regime is no more.