Arabs see Gaddafi's death as lesson to other tyrants
DUBAI (Reuters) - For many Arabs, the humiliating capture and killing of Muammar Gaddafi, the longest-serving Arab leader, is a lesson to other tyrants in a region that has overthrown three long-serving rulers this year.
But some said on Friday that Libya would have been better off if its former leader had been given a fair trial for abuses committed during his 42-year rule, which ended when rebels captured the capital Tripoli in August.
"The world now has one less dictator," said Ziad Khalil, a Beirut shopkeeper, a day after Gaddafi's death. "This is the end he deserves."
In Cairo, Youssef Hammad, a 43-year-old business executive, said he was not surprised by Gaddafi's gruesome demise.
"The way he was going to die, if caught, was sealed when he ignored his people's calls for a more open and free society," Hammad said. "Instead he vowed to hunt them down one by one, alleyway by alleyway, like rats. Ironically that's how he met his maker."
Gaddafi, a fugitive since August, was killed on Thursday after fighters for the National Transitional Council captured his last stronghold and hometown of Sirte.
He tried to flee the city in a convoy, braving NATO airstrikes. His captors found him hiding in a drainage culvert, and cellphone video showed a bloodied Gaddafi being beaten.
Libya's Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said that Gaddafi was hit during "crossfire" while being taken to hospital, but most Libyans, including officials, seemed to have little doubt that he was probably killed by his captors.
The Egyptian cabinet said after a meeting on Thursday it was looking forward to helping the Libyan people rebuild their country. But most Arab governments have yet to comment on Gaddafi's death.
LESSON TO TYRANTS
Gaddafi was the third Arab head of state to be ousted this year, after Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.
But unlike Ben Ali and Mubarak, who were ousted by popular uprisings in January and February, Gaddafi was overthrown in a civil war that the new interim government says cost some 30,000 lives.
Many Arabs said Gaddafi's death was likely to scare Arab leaders still clinging to power in Syria and Yemen in the face of months of pro-democracy protests and crackdowns by security forces that have left thousands of people dead.
In the Omani capital Muscat, banker Haji Ismail said Gaddafi's death was a lesson to other Arab rulers. "They will face such a fate if they keep oppressing their people."
Cairo engineer Ibrahim Sabri said Arab leaders were afraid of meeting a similar fate.
"This was evident in the Syrian TV denial of Gaddafi's news, they are afraid that they will share the same fate," he said.
In Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad has faced seven months of popular protests opposing his rule, video footage of a demonstration on Thursday night in Homs province showed people chanting: "Bashar, it is your turn next!"
In the Syrian town of Houla, people carried placards saying: "Syrian rebels congratulate the Libyan people for killing the rat Muammar Gaddafi," and "Death is the fate of all oppressive rulers - first the rat Muammar Gaddafi, then the thug Bashar al-Assad."
Some said the success of the Libyan uprising would have been more welcome had NATO forces not been involved.
NATO deployed aircraft to protect Libyan civilians against Gaddafi forces in a U.N.-mandated operation. But the alliance took a visible role in the fighting that ousted Gaddafi.
"It would have been a triumph for all Arabs if Libyans themselves removed Gaddafi without NATO help," said Suleiman Al Sharji, an Omani political commentator. "Now we have more questions on foreign interference as versus self-rule than ever before."
Amr Moussa, a former Arab League Secretary General under whom the body asked for international intervention to help Libyan civilians, said he hoped that Libya will move forward quickly to achieve the goals of its people.
"I hope that Libya will transition after Gaddafi's departure into a new phase toward the path of building a modern Libya and achieving stability and real democracy," the independent Egyptian daily al-Tahrir newspaper quoted Amr Moussa as saying.
(Additional reporting by Shaima Fayed, Maha El Dahan and Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Saleh Al-Shaibani in Muscat, Dominic Evans in Beirut)
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