MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi will be buried according to Muslim rites within 24 hours, a Libyan transitional government force commander said on Friday, and witnesses said the body bore a visible bullet hole in the head.
“He will get his right like any Muslim, his body will be washed and treated with dignity. I expect he will be buried in a Muslim cemetery within 24 hours,” commander Abdul-Salam Eleiwa said in Misrata, where fighters are keeping Gaddafi’s body in a large cold store in an old market area.
He said he did not know where the burial would take place in Libya. Misrata was a stronghold of anti-Gaddafi rebels who toppled him in an eight-month civil war.
The body, which was shown to fighters and a Reuters witness, bore a bullet hole in the side of the head, as well as a large bruise on one side and scratch marks.
There was some blood on the body though far less than seen in a video of Gaddafi shortly after his capture.
Fighters shouted “God is great” as they were ushered in by guards. There were no officials of the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) in the area.
There were signs on Friday of a dispute between the NTC and the fighters from Misrata, a stronghold of the rebel movement that brought Gaddafi down with help from NATO, over where to bury the strongman who ruled for 42 years.
It was not clear if the fighters on the ground felt they should have a say in the decision on Gaddafi’s burial since they fought to oust the veteran leader then hunt him down.
“They are not agreeing on the place of burial,” said an NTC official who declined to be named. “Under Islam he should have been buried quickly but they have to reach an agreement whether he is to be buried in Misrata, Sirte, or somewhere else.”
Gaddafi was captured alive in his hometown of Sirte on Thursday but died later while in the hands of fighters in circumstances that are still not clear.
NTC official Ali Tarhouni, who is oil minister in the interim government, said a decision had not yet been taken.
“I told them to keep it in the freezer for a few days... to make sure that everybody knows he is dead,” he told Reuters.
Asked about the burial arrangements, including where he would be buried, he said: “There is no decision yet.”
Tarhouni also said a decision on who would be prime minister of Libya’s interim government would be made “most likely next week”, adding that he was a contender.
He said the NTC had set a rough timetable of eight months for drafting a new constitution, then holding elections, but added: “I think it will be longer than eight months.”