Col Gaddafi `buried in secret, desert grave at dawn

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The bodies of ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Muatassim and a top aide have been buried in secret in the desert, Libyan officials say.

A National Transitional Council (NTC) official told the BBC the bodies were buried at dawn in an unknown location.

This follows days of apparent uncertainty among the new leadership about what to do with the bodies.

Colonel Gaddafi`s family wanted the bodies to be buried outside the former leader`s hometown of Sirte.

Officials from the NTC had expressed a preference for a secret burial.

Guma al-Gamaty, a London-based spokesman for the NTC, told the BBC the burial had taken place.

Sources said that it received confirmation in a text from a military council official in Misrata that the burial took place at a secret location at 05:00 local time. A few relatives and officials were in attendance as Islamic prayers were read over the bodies, spokesman Ibrahim Beitalmal is quoted as saying.

An NTC official had earlier told Reuters news agency that Col Gaddafi would be buried in a “simple” ceremony with “sheikhs attending” on Tuesday.

“It will be an unknown location in the open desert,” he said, adding that a burial was needed because decomposition of the body had reached the point where the “corpse cannot last any longer”.

Witnesses reported that the bodies of the three men were removed overnight from the meat storage warehouse in Misrata where they had been on display. The BBC was told prayers were said over the bodies before they were driven away.

“Our job is finished,” a security guard at the warehouse, Salem al Mohandes, told the Arabic television station al-Jazeera. “[Gaddafi] was transferred and the military council of Misrata took him away to an unknown location. I don`t know whether they buried him or not.”

A source said the question of how to dispose of Col Gaddafi’s body has been a political minefield for the new Libyan leadership, and is the reason why it has taken four days for a decision to be taken.

Islamic tradition dictates a burial should happen within a day of the death.

But the NTC leadership was concerned that any public grave could become a shrine for Gaddafi loyalists or as a target of hatred for those who opposed his regime, our correspondent says.

But, in the end, our correspondent says, the decomposition of the body meant the NTC had to act.

Questions have been raised over the former leader`s death after video footage showed him alive at the time of capture in Sirte on Thursday. Officials said he had been killed subsequently in a crossfire.

A post-mortem carried out on the 69-year-old`s body on Sunday showed he had received a bullet wound to the head, medical sources said.

The acting Libyan leader, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, said the NTC had formed a committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death.

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