Moammar Gadhafi was killed following an assault on the former Libyan leader’s final stronghold of Sirte, the head of the transitional government’s military said in a news conference Thursday.
The announcement came after officials with the country’s National Transitional Council (NTC) said that they had seen the body of the former dictator.
“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Moammar Gadhafi has been killed,” Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the NTC’s military arm, told reporters, according to al-Jazeera television.
After the announcement that Gadhafi was slain, throngs of people gathered in the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi to celebrate. Some fired rounds in the air and waved the country’s new flag.
"It is an historic moment. It is the end of tyranny and dictatorship. Gadhafi has met his fate," Abdel Hafez Ghoga, an NTC official, told AFP.
"We announce to the world that Gadhafi has been killed at the hands of the revolution.”
Photos show Gadhafi, with his trademark goatee, covered in blood.
This is one of the most significant events during the entire Arab Spring uprising in the Middle East and North Africa, which resulted in the toppling of several long-standing regimes.
Gadhafi’s 42-year-long regime was toppled in August after rebels launched a bold attack on the capital, Tripoli, overrunning his compounds and forcing him to flee. A number of unconfirmed reports emerged in the meantime, saying he was hiding out in the desert.
Several of Gadhafi’s family members, including children and grandchildren, fled to neighboring Niger and Algeria.
NTC forces took control over Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte on Thursday after taking over much of Bani Walid, a town located around 100 miles south of Tripoli, earlier this week.
The former spokesperson for Gadhafi’s regime, Moussa Ibrahim, was also captured in Sirte Thursday, an NTC commander told Reuters.
"Moussa Ibrahim was also captured and both of them were transferred to [our] operations room,” Jalil told the news agency.
A young fighter with the NTC, wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap, was the one who claimed to have found Gadhafi and recovered his golden pistol, according to photos taken by AFP. He added that the fugitive leader had been badly wounded.
Gadhafi and his son, Saif al-Islam, were both wanted by the International Criminal Court and Interpol, who issued a red notice for his arrest.