* Trusted NTC loyalists take body for burial
* Corpse taken deep into Sahara desert
* Mission secret to avoid grave becoming shrine
By Samia Nakhoul
ABU DHABI, Oct 25 Two trusted loyalists of
Libya's interim government were handed Muammar Gaddafi's body to
bury secretly deep in the Sahara desert on Tuesday after a
cleric prayed over his decomposing corpse, an official said.
The National Transitional Council (NTC) had disquieted many
outsiders by putting the bodies of Gaddafi and his son Mo'tassim
on show in a meat locker in the coastal city of Misrata until
their decay forced them on Monday to close the doors.
Under pressure from Western allies, the NTC promised on
Monday to investigate how Gaddafi and his son were killed --
graphic mobile phone footage shows both alive after their
capture. The former Libyan leader was seen being mocked and
beaten before he was shot, in what NTC officials say was
"The process leading to his burial is taking place now," NTC
official Abdel Majid Mlegta told Reuters by telephone from
Libya. "Only two trusted people were assigned to this secret
mission. These are not guards, but very trusted NTC people."
Final Islamic prayers were said over the two bodies by
Gaddafi's personal cleric Khaled Tantoush, who was arrested with
him, before they were removed from the Misrata compound where
Libyans had filed past their ex-strongman sprawled on a mattress
in what became a grim parody of the lying-in-state ceremony.
The last Muslim rites were also attended by two of Gaddafi's
cousins, Mansour Dhao Ibrahim, once leader of the feared
People's Guard, and Ahmed Ibrahim, who were both captured with
Gaddafi after their convoy was attacked in a NATO air strike
near Sirte, Gaddafi's home town, just after it had fallen.
"The NTC officials were handed the body after the sheikh
completed the early morning ceremony and are taking him
somewhere very far away into the desert," Mlegta said, without
"Trust me, it takes time and the burial will take place far
away from the media."
The NTC leadership appears to have decided that an anonymous
grave would at least ensure the plot did not become a shrine.
The killing of the 69-year-old Gaddafi ended eight months of
war, finally ending a nervous two-month hiatus since the NTC's
motley forces overran the capital Tripoli.
But it also threatened to lay bare the regional and tribal
rivalries that present the NTC with its biggest challenge.
An NTC official had told Reuters several days ago that
officials entrusted with the burial would all have to swear on
the Koran never to reveal its location.
At times, Gaddafi's body appeared to have become a macabre
bargaining chip for Libya's long besieged city of Misrata, whose
war leaders want a bigger say in the peace.
NTC officials had spoken of talks with Gaddafi's tribal
kinsmen from Sirte and within the interim leadership over where
and how to dispose of the body, and on what Misrata leaders in
possession of the corpse might get in return for cooperation.
Fears in the NTC that Gaddafi's sons might mount an
insurgency have been largely allayed by the death of the two who
wielded the most power, military commander Khamis and Mo'tassim.
(Writing by Peter Millership; Editing by Alistair Lyon)