TRIPOLI // Libya's interim government yesterday vowed to prosecute the killers of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi in what is likely to be the first major test of its ability to control the rival tribal, clan and city-based militias that overthrew his regime.
Amid mounting international concern over the way 69-year-old was treated after his capture, grainy video has emerged that suggested he was sexually assaulted before his death.
"With regards to Qaddafi, we do not wait for anybody to tell us," said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice-chairman of the ruling National Transitional Council, of the inquiry into the killing.
"We had already launched an investigation. We have issued a code of ethics in handling of prisoners of war. I am sure that was an individual act and not an act of revolutionaries or the national army.
"Whoever is responsible for that will be judged and given a fair trial."
The interim government had initially said Qaddafi died of wounds received in the final battle that saw revolutionary forces capture his home town, Sirte, just over a week ago.
But conflicting accounts surfaced almost immediately as his rotting corpse was put on public display in a commercial freezer in the nearby city of Misurata.
Before Qaddfi's body was secretly buried in the desert on Tuesday, a wrangle over when, where and how to bury him highlighted the difficulties the NTC faces in wielding control over a fractured and traumatised nation.
US-based online news organisation the GlobalPost said Qaddafi was sexually abused after his capture in Sirte.
"An analysis of video obtained by GlobalPost from a rebel fighter who recorded the moment when Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was first captured confirms that another rebel fighter, whose identity is unknown, sodomised the former leader as he was being dragged from the drainpipe where he had taken cover," it said.
"A frame by frame analysis of this exclusive GlobalPost video clearly shows the rebel trying to insert some kind of stick or knife into Qaddafi's rear end."
The site carried graphic video and stills images which appeared to show a man in a blue shirt shoving something into Qaddafi though his pants as he is beaten by a gang of men, some in fatigues.
There was no immediate comment from the NTC nor independent verification of the video.
As the NTC works to assert its control, the United Nations Security council yesterday voted unanimously to end the mandate for international military action in Libya from midnight Monday, rejecting NTC requests for an extension.
A Nato-led alliance played a major role protecting revolutionary fighters and civilians against Qaddafi's forces.
Major-General Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah, the chief of staff of the military of Qatar, which provided critical backing to the anti-Qaddafi forces with men and weapons, said Western countries had proposed a new alliance to support Libya after the Nato mission. "And they have asked that it be headed by Qatar because Qatar is a friend of theirs and a close friend of Libya," he told Al Jazeera English.
Qaddafi's son and one-time heir-apparent, Saif Al Islam, on the run and wanted by the The Hague war crimes court, wants a plane and safe passage to allow him to surrender, NTC officials said.
The 39-year-old is on the run in the Libyan desert. With him was his relative, former intelligence chief Abdullah Al Senussi, the third man indicted along with the two Qaddafis by the International Criminal Court after their crackdown on the popular revolt that began in February.
"They are proposing a way to hand themselves over to The Hague," said Abdel Majid Mlegta, a senior NTC military official. An ICC spokesman said it had no confirmation of any talks. Mr Mlegta, citing intelligence sources, said Mr Al Islam was somewhere in the Libyan Sahara far to the south, trying to get an unnamed country to broker a deal with the international court.
With Mr Al Senussi, Mr Al Islam had contemplated escape into either Algeria, which has taken in his mother, sister and two brothers, or to Niger, where another brother found refuge.
But an adviser to Niger's president told the Associated Press Mr Al Senussi had was now hiding in the desert of Niger after escaping with help of Tuareg tribesmen.
The information was confirmed by Serge Hiltron, owner of Radio Nomad in Niger's north.
"It's like the story of the cat and the mouse, and we're waiting for him (Mr Al Senussi) to come out of his hole. He can't stay there forever," Hiltron said by telephone. "For them (Mr Al Senussi and Mr Al Islam) the area that is safest is this buffer zone between Algeria, Libya and Niger - it's the most secure. But they can't stay there forever. With the protection of the Tuaregs they can last a while though."
Mr Al Islam's flight and possible capture may not extinguish opposition to the interim leadership, which on Sunday declared the oil-rich North African nation "liberated" after 42 years of Mr Qaddafi's rule and is now working toward forming a government that can hold free elections. Libya is awash with weapons and with long-standing regional and ethnic divisions that could prolong instability.
* Reuters and the Associated Press