The liberation of Libya will be declared on Sunday in the city of Benghazi, often referred to as the cradle of the revolution that overthrew Muammar Qaddafi, and not in the capital Tripoli, interim government officials said, as NATO said it was unaware that Qaddafi was travelling in the convoy struck by alliance aircraft near Sirte.
The chairman of the ruling National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, will make the announcement, the officials said.
“The decision has been taken,” an NTC official said. “The declaration of liberation will be in Benghazi, not Tripoli.”
Other NTC officials confirmed the decision to Reuters.
“The announcement of the liberation will be announced in Benghazi at 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Sunday, at the court of justice,” another official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A television station based in Syria that supported Qaddafi said that the slain Libyan leader’s wife has asked for a United Nations investigation into his death.
The wife of Qaddafi “asks the United Nations to investigate the death of the fighter Muammar and Motassim,” Arrai television said in a news headline, referring to one of Qaddafi’s sons as well, Reuters reported.
The headline also said Qaddafi’s wife was proud of her husband’s courage and her children who, it said, stood up to 40 countries and their agents throughout six months and considered them to be martyrs.
NATO earlier said it was unaware that Qaddafi was travelling in the convoy struck by alliance aircraft near Sirte the previous day.
“At the time of the strike, NATO did not know that Qaddafi was in the convoy,” NATO said in a lengthy statement. “We later learned from open sources and Allied intelligence that Qaddafi was in the convoy.”
In a statement dated from its Naples headquarters, the alliance said it had now “had the opportunity to conduct a post strike assessment of yesterday's strike” and could provide the following picture of events, AFP reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that the convoy carrying former Libyan strongman Qaddafi posed no threat to civilians when it was attacked by NATO jets.
“There is no link between a no-fly zone and ground targets, including this convoy,” Lavrov said in a live radio interview. “Even more so since civilian life was not in danger because it (the convoy) was not attacking anyone,” he said according to AFP.
NATO aircraft struck 11 pro-Qaddafi vehicles at around 1030 GMT on Thursday that were part of a larger group of approximately 75 vehicles maneuvering in the vicinity of Sirte.
“These armed vehicles were leaving Sirte at high speed and were attempting to force their way around the outskirts of the city. The vehicles were carrying a substantial amount of weapons and ammunition posing a significant threat to the local civilian population. The convoy was engaged by a NATO aircraft to reduce the threat.”
The statement went on to say that initially only one vehicle was destroyed, but that disrupted the convoy “and resulted in many vehicles dispersing and changing direction.”
A group of approximately 20 vehicles “continued at great speed to proceed in a southerly direction, due west of Sirte, and continuing to pose a significant threat. NATO engaged these vehicles with another air asset.”
NATO’s post strike assessment “revealed that approximately 10 pro-Qaddafi vehicles were destroyed or damaged,” it added.
“At the time of the strike, NATO did not know that Qaddafi was in the convoy. NATO’s intervention was conducted solely to reduce the threat towards the civilian population, as required to do under our U.N. mandate. As a matter of policy, NATO does not target individuals.
“We later learned from open sources and Allied intelligence that Qaddafi was in the convoy and that the strike likely contributed to his capture.”
The statement ended by refusing to detail which countries supplied which of the planes involved in the strikes.