Agence France-Presse was the first international media on Thursday to file an image of a heavily-bloodied Muammar Qaddafi after the fall of his Sirte hometown.
The shot was taken from the mobile phone of an anti-Qaddafi fighter by photographer Philippe Desmazes in the eastern Libyan city.
“I was covering the fall of Sirte when I heard gunfire some distance west of where I stood,” said Desmazes, adding that it sounded like a celebration rather than fighting.
“I asked the fighters to take me there, and when we reached the site they showed me huge cement culverts in which, they said, Qaddafi had been hiding before his capture.”
Desmazes said his lucky break came when he noticed another group of fighters nearby, eyes fixed on a mobile phone and decided to join them.
“I was lucky because I was the only one to notice them,” he said. “The owner of the cell phone showed me (a video of) the arrest of Qaddafi which he had taken a few minutes earlier.
“The light at that time made it difficult to take a picture of the screen,” he said.
But the fighters crowded around Desmazes providing him with enough shadow to snap the picture. “The fighters moved closer and created a shadow enabling me to take a picture ... I was very lucky.”
In the grainy image, Qaddafi is seen with blood-soaked clothing and blood daubed across his face.
AFP was unable to determine if the man was dead or alive. Less than an hour later a spokesman of Libya’s new regime, the National Transitional Council, confirmed Qaddafi had died in the custody of its fighters.
In a video aired later on Arab satellite channels, a bloodied Qaddafi was seen alive and walking as he was being manhandled by Libya’s new regime fighters before the announcement of his death.
NTC fighters circled the 69-year-old ousted strongman, as he apparently tried to cry out.
One fighter appeared to hold a gun to his head but it was unclear if he fired before Qaddafi was hauled onto the front of a vehicle, amid chaotic scenes in the video broadcast on television channels.
By then the picture by Desmazes, who is based in Lyons, southeast France, and covered the civil war in the Ivory Coast, was already all over the Internet and satellite news channels.