Return to Transcripts main page


Reports of Moammar Gadhafi Captured and Dead; Libyan Rebel Forces Take Town of Sirte; Initial Reports Indicate Moammar Gadhafi Captured by Rebels

Aired October 20, 2011 - 07:59   ET


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Today is a big day in Libya. The city of Sirte has fallen. According to the reports that we are getting, the final push was really on this area, known as District 2, where the major pockets of resistance, the really tough ones, were still holding out. There are reports that say that that is now mostly in control now of the NTC fighters. It's hugely significant because Sirte was Moammar Gadhafi's hometown, and also the last bastion of the fight that continued to support Moammar Gadhafi that has apparently disappeared and been destroyed.

We continue to get conflicting reports here on exactly what is going on. Many reports are saying Moammar Gadhafi has possibly been captured. There are reports that say he has been wounded in the legs. There's another report from the state TV in Libya saying Gadhafi has been evacuated to Misrata and pronounced dead on arrival. We need to be careful because we do not know for 100 percent certainty.

One senior official in Libya says all they know is that they have a big fish. In the coming hours, there's going to be a statement from Benghazi and we will know then what exactly has happened, who exactly it is and what this means for Libya. It could be the biggest day in Libya's history and a major turning point for the country and the entire region.

Abdel Bari Atwan, a journalist and author who knows Libya well, joins me.

What does this day mean for Libya?

ABDEL BARI ATWAN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: It means, you know, the biggest day in history for Libya, Zain. You are absolutely right. And it could be also the biggest day in history for the Middle East itself because many things actually could be determined after the capture or the death of Colonel Gadhafi, not only in North Africa, but also in the Middle East. We know that there is also revolution in Yemen. We know that there is also revolution in Yemen. We know that there is another revolution in Syria. And the two regimes there are fighting for survival.

So, it could be now, after that, you know, they turn over the page of Libyan conflict or that page of Gadhafi regime after 42 years of suppression, maybe that attention will be concentrated on Syria and Yemen.

Libyans suffered a lot. You know, Libya is one of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East. It's oil revenue between $50 billion and $60 billion a year. And despite that, Gadhafi actually turned the country to one of the poorest in the Middle East. People are suffering. There is no institution. There is no services. There is no proper hospitals, no proper universities, no proper schools.

And his major aim was actually to spend this money in order to boost his popularity in Africa and some parts of the Middle East, even supporting, you know, so-called terrorist organization and several (INAUDIBLE). So, I think it is a historic day, yes.

VERJEE: Abdul Bari Atwan -- thank you so much.

What we need to keep in mind right now is that we don't know. Moammar Gadhafi may be captured. He may be killed. He may be wounded.

You're watching CNN breaking news coverage out of Libya on what could be the most historic extraordinary day the country has ever seen.

Kristie Lu Stout has also been following this, and the way the situation stands right now is that various conflicting reports that Moammar Gadhafi, the former Libyan leader who had ruled the country for 42 years, has been captured. There are reports that he has also been wounded in the leg. There is state TV also reporting that he may be dead -- Kristie.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And all this coming on the back of reports that Sirte has finally fallen to NTC forces.

Zain, thank you for that.

Again, breaking news this hour in Libya: The NTC is reporting that former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has been captured. And if confirmed, this would be the end of his 42 years of his rule and a new era for Libya.

Of course, we have correspondents across the globe on the story. We have our Dan Rivers live in Tripoli, Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon, Mohammed Jamjoom live in Libya, Phil Black live in London.

But, first up, let's go to our Dan Rivers live in Tripoli, where even though this story, the capture of Moammar Gadhafi is yet to be confirmed, there are celebrations under way -- Dan.

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, there are incredible celebrations here on the streets of Tripoli behind me. You can probably hear the deafening noise of car horns, the ships out in the harbor have been sounding their horns. You can hear the calls for prayer in the celebration from the local mosque as gunfire echoing out across the city in celebration, as well, everyone here believing these rumors that Colonel Gadhafi has been either captured or killed.

I must stress, though, that we have no independent confirmation of this.

A short time ago, we did speak to the minister of information for the NTC, Mahmoud Shaman. Here's what he told me.


MAHMOUD SHAMAN, NTC MINISTER OF INFORMATION: It's a big day for the Libyan people (INAUDIBLE). I think it's a great victory for Libyan people and a great victory for revolution. And we know now from our sources in mi Misrata that we have a big fish. We don't know how the fish is --

RIVERS: You don't know who has been captured, just a senior figure.

SHAMAN: Misrata radio confirmed that big figure is Moammar Gadhafi himself. We're waiting for a statement from Benghazi. Mustapha Abdul Jalil in Benghazi I think is the one, and the NTC people who can confirm or deny that we caught a big fish in Sirte.


RIVER: But they are being cautious because they know in the past they announced the capture of Colonel Gadhafi's sons, for example, Saif al-Islam, who then turned up at the Rixos Hotel, rather embarrassingly during the struggle for Tripoli back in August and proved that rumor to not be true.

They're going to be very cautious on this one. They know that this is the big piece of news that the entire country has been waiting for and I think they want to make sure they get the announcement right this time. We're being told there will be some sort of press conference when they have 100 percent confirmation. Probably I would imagine some sort of video or photographic evidence of Colonel Gadhafi in custody if that is, indeed, the case.

But you can hear behind me, they're already celebrating. They're breathing a huge sign of relief here, because there were concerns that Colonel Gadhafi, Kristie, he won't be captured, could disappear, melt into the desert and leave an insurgency for years to come that could destabilize this country and block any chance of it getting back on its feet and becoming a democracy, which is what so many people here are desperate to happen.

VERJEE: CNN senior international correspondent Dan Rivers getting us the latest information from Tripoli.

Mohammed Jamjoom joins us now.

Mohammed, what do you think this means for Libya?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a very good question, Zain. There are still a lot of questions here today, a lot of ifs. Right now, we're monitoring what the regional reaction is -- reactions just now starting to flood in mostly on social media.

As far as the Arabic networks, we're seeing a lot of conflicting information. Some networks reporting that Gadhafi has been killed. Some networks reporting that he has been captured. Some reporting he has been wounded. It's really all over the place and there's a lot of questions yet remained to be answered.

As far as the social aspect here in the region, we are seeing a lot of people on sites like Twitter tweeting out responses, like, hey, if they caught Gadhafi this year, that would be great because they've gotten bin Laden, Mubarak, Ben Ali and potentially President Saleh.

You're seeing a lot of people in countries where the Arab spring has taken route tweeting out messages of support for the Libyans, saying that if this, indeed, happened, that is a very good thing, it's a very good day for Libya, and it's a very good day for the Arab spring in general.

The people who have been involved and the movement in this region have really expressed solidarity for the different movements in the different countries. You've seen in countries like Yemen and in countries like Egypt and in countries like Libya, times when those countries will express support for the other country's revolutions. And so, that's what you're continuing to see right now.

Although people are expressing caution and trying to find out exactly what did happen if Gadhafi has, indeed, been captured and those questions remain at this time -- Zain.

STOUT: Mohammed, it's Kristie in Hong Kong.

As you mentioned, this is wide implications here for the Arab spring. The entire world is watching -- world leaders are watching, including the Yemeni president.

What do you think he is making of this development, even though it has yet to be confirmed, NTC fighters, NTC leaders, claiming that Moammar Gadhafi has been captured?

JAMJOOM: Kristie, whenever a leader -- in this Arab spring movement, whenever a leader has fallen or been deposed or been captured, during this movement, this has had ripple effects throughout the region. And the leaders that are facing uprisings in their countries, they get scared when they hear this news.

Somebody like President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, this is the last bit of news that he would want to hear because this will surely, if Gadhafi was, indeed, captured, this will surely embolden the uprising that's been going on in Yemen and will surely give a morale boost to all those revolutionaries that have been out on the streets for months now, demanding an end to the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. It will also increase their calls that he be tried by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. They alleged that he has brutally cracked down on them and their uprising in the past several months.

Even though the Yemeni government denies this, they continue to deny it. The people in the street continue to charge that the government had been going after them.

So, this will give, if indeed Gadhafi has been captured, it will give a big boost to the revolutionary movement in Yemen and it will give them more of a morale boost to continue to come out into the streets, to continue to demand the ouster of the president. And, again, it's really the last thing that somebody like President Ali Abdullah Saleh who is so embattled that would want to hear at this time -- Kristie.

STOUT: Mohammed Jamjoom, joining us live from Abu Dhabi -- thank you for that.

I want to bring in CNN security contributor Fran Townsend now. She joins me on the phone from New York.

And, Frank, just give us your thoughts, your reaction to this report from the NTC that Moammar Gadhafi has been captured in Sirte.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): I think like most of us, we're pretty cautious because of, you know, misreporting from the NTC early on in their struggle. But if it is true, if we can confirm that Gadhafi has been captured or killed, this now is an opportunity for the NTC, the transitional council in Libya, to consolidate their power and begin to apply the rule of law, right?

This is what they fought for. They fought for democratic Libya that is not ruled by a dictator and have its own people oppressed, and where resources are more adequately and evenly distributed, where they can be investments in infrastructure. I mean, this is the real -- this is the pivotal turning point for them that they have been waiting for.

You know, I will say, while I do agree with Mohammed that this will embolden protesters from places like Yemen and Syria, let's remember, Libya was the one place where the Arab League came together and supported NATO's activity there, and sort of encouraged it. There was no love lost throughout the Arab region for Moammar Gadhafi. He had personal disputes with a number of leaders, not least of which with the long-running dispute with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

So, you're going to find that the remaining leaders in the region, they will not be sad to see him go and in many respects, this allows the region to focus on its continuing problems in Yemen and Syria.

STOUT: So, even if, Fran, just want to get your thinking on the overall security situation. In the event of a Libya that wads truly without Moammar Gadhafi, if confirmed that Sirte has fallen, that Moammar Gadhafi has captured, there are still these pockets of resistance, this pockets of pro-Gadhafi loyalists out and about.

What are your thoughts about any rock style insurgency taking route inside Libya, even in a Libya after Gadhafi?

TOWNSEND: Well, I think you're quite right to raise this. This is probably the most pressing and serious security concern that the transitional council will face. Initially, I think what we should expect is those pro-Gadhafi forces will melt away for a period of time to see what happens, to see how the transitional council shakes out, to see what popular support that they have among the Libyan population.

So, you'll go through an initial period of euphoria. As we're seeing, people are already celebrating and it's not confirmed. You'll go through a period of relative calm and quiet and celebration and everyone takes in the fact that Gadhafi is gone.

There will be continuing concern about where are his sons? Have they fled? Will they fight? And will they try to organize those forces, those pro-Gadhafi forces that will melt away in immediate aftermath of the capture or kill of Gadhafi?

The transitional council have to deal with that and figure out how to bring those people into society, into the government and deal with them so there's not retribution, that there's an impulse on their part to try and oppose the transitional council.

STOUT: All right. Fran, thank you for that.

Let's bring in former diplomat and CNN contributor, Jamie Rubin. He joins us live from New York.

And, Jamie, I was wondering if you share Fran Townsend's caution, in terms of your reaction to this report, NTC leaders claiming that Moammar Gadhafi has been captured in Sirte.

JAMES RUBIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think one always has to be cautious for the reasons that everyone has been saying for the last half hour, because we haven't seen the final evidence, whether it's the body of Moammar Gadhafi, if he's dead, as some TV -- television reports from the region had suggested, or whether he's been captured as others are saying.

But this has the feel now like the real thing in terms of what's happening on the streets, what the reporters are hearing, the multiplicity of TV and radio and news reporting. And I think we in the West, certainly, should try to imagine how big an issue -- a development this is for the people of Libya who lived under this face, this individual, this person's shadow for their whole lives, knowing that he had the ability by the whims of he and his family to change everybody's future, to kill people, to torture people, to free people.

That kind of all-powerful dictator doesn't exist in to many places in the world. Gadhafi was one of them.

And I think that's why when this news is confirmed, if it is confirmed in some way, that there is this outpouring that all of your guests have suggested. It's already starting. And then the real first test of the new government will come and how they handle this development.

If he's alive, do they try him in Libya? Do they -- as they say -- have a local justice system? Do they respond to the International Criminal Court which has wanted to see him tried there? That will be the world's first judgment of whether the new Libya is to be based on the rule of law and democratic values.

STOUT: Moammar Gadhafi, if he is still alive, he is wanted by the International Criminal Court, as you mentioned, for crimes against humanity. What is the United States' view on this? Does the United States want to see him turned over to the ICC next?

RUBIN: Yes. I would assume the U.S. government would encourage the turning over of Gadhafi to the International Criminal Court -- not because of any principle of the ICC, but because the International Criminal Court will have procedures, lawyers, traditions in place that would ensure that not only he gets a fair trial, but it seemed to be a fair trial, because that perception is important.

And, obviously, without that tradition inside Libya that hasn't existed for decades, it will be extremely difficult to put together a convincing trial in Libya, a trial that is fair and that is seen to be fair, which is also crucially important.

So, my guess is the U.S. would certainly prefer an ICC trial, but I can't imagine any government disputing the right of the transition council, the new government of Libya to make this decision themselves, especially as they captured him and as he has visited such pain and suffering on to the people of Libya.

It would be hard to take away their right to make that decision. We might try -- the U.S. might try to persuade the local government, this new transition council to turn him over even though they've said they don't want to make the arguments I just made about a fair trial and seem to be fair.

And that will be the next round of diplomatic discussion and how the transition council handles this if he's alive will be the first real tough test that the new government will face in the eyes of the world.

STOUT: All right. James Rubin, former U.S. assistant to secretary of state, thank you very much, indeed, for that. Let's bring up my colleague, Zain Verjee, live in London. And Zain, I was noticing just moments ago a banner underneath our guest just now, Jamie Rubin, saying that there additional reports that Moammar Gadhafi has been killed.

So many reports coming up our way claiming that he's been captured in Sirte, claiming that he has been killed. Of course, we are still working to confirm the story. On top of that, working to confirm the report that Sirte, after days and days of fighting, has fallen to NTC rebels. But one thing is for certain that is, indeed, happening now. Tripoli celebrations under way upon the news that Gadhafi has been captured or killed -- Zain.

VERJEE: That is exactly right. If you were just joining us here on CNN, let me just bring you up to date with exactly on what is going on. Just moments ago, a National Transitional TV station called Al- Ahrar, is reporting that Moammar Gadhafi is dead. It has not cited a source, and CNN cannot independently confirm that information.

At the same time, the Reuters News Agency is reporting quoting an NTC official also saying that Moammar Gadhafi is dead. There's also information that he was trying to flee, that he has been captured. He's also been wounded in the legs. We are trying to confirm that information, but this is the scene on the streets of Sirte right now. Celebrations, gunshots, dancing, hooting of car horns on the street. Senior international correspondent, Dan Rivers, joins us now to bring us up to date with what he is now hearing -- Dan.

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Just lots of conflicting rumors, I'm afraid, Zain. Nothing concrete. And I think that's going to be the case for a few hours now until the NTC holds some sort of press conference and gives us the definitive story of what happened today. Sirte, it seems, has fallen and not much is clear.

The face of Col. Gadhafi (INAUDIBLE) is confusing. As you say, some reports are saying he's been captured, some that he's been injured during that capture, some that he's been killed. We simply don't know, and if anything else would be speculation, I'm afraid. What isn't speculation is what's going on down here. This may look a little messy. Let's just take the camera, if we can, over the side here and you can have a look.

All sorts of celebration on the streets. There are people doing dancing down there. It's the hotel staff where we are. The chefs are out dancing in their white hats, waving the flag. There are people shooting in the air. Huge traffic jams building up down there as people digest the news that Col. Gadhafi's regime is finally over after 42 years he came to power, of course, in 1969 staging a coup against the king.

As a young captain, only 27 years old promoting himself to colonel so he wouldn't outrank his great hero, the president and master of Egypt. And then ruled this country with increasing brutality for 42 years until, obviously, the Arab springs went through here in the most dramatic and incredible fashion -- Zain.

VERJEE: Dan Rivers, our senior international correspondent there reporting. What an amazing scene out there. The chefs near the Cornish (ph), they're dancing and celebrating upon hearing the possible news that Moammar Gadhafi, the former Libyan leader is dead. Again, we just need to be a little bit careful here, but if it is true that he is either captured or killed, this would be the biggest day in Libya's history.

That man known by many of his enemies as the mad dog of the Middle East. He wants his friends to call him king of kings. It's all over. It may all be over for him now. CNN's Barbara Starr joins us now from the Pentagon. Barbara, what is the U.S. saying on the suggestion that the biggest fish of them all may be caught or killed?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Zain, officially from Washington at this point, no confirmation of either captured or killed. They are also waiting. I think when word finally comes out of Libya, you will then see NATO make a statement about this because they, of course, led the military operation, as well as President Obama.

If Gadhafi is, in fact, dead, and may have perhaps been killed in some sort of military operation, depending on the condition of the body, if that's what we're facing here, we may also be looking at some sort of DNA test being conducted to show those results to the world, because in these cases, we typically hear, you know, people the urban legend would remain that he's alive somewhere.

So, they may want to also do some sort of DNA testing, if, in fact, he is dead. But as for confirmation, no confirmation yet. but I did speak a little while ago to a senior NATO official about this question of when NATO will end the military operation over Libya, because now, the emerging government is taking increasing control of the country and, as we see, taking control of that last stronghold of Sirte, though, it's not under full control yet.

This senior NATO official tells me that in the next couple of days, the supreme ally commander and the top military official in NATO who is a U.S. navy, Adm. Stavridis (ph) is expected now to make a recommendation to NATO in the next couple of days that the Libya mission for NATO come to an end.

Then what will happen is a special session of the North Atlantic council of NATO. The military arm of NATO, if you will, will be called into special session to take a vote. It will have to be a NATO vote on ending the mission in Libya, and if Gadhafi now is captured or killed, that will probably bolster the case, one could assume, that the NATO military mission over Libya is over.

But, nonetheless, this country remains a very significant security concern. Thousands, perhaps, of surface to air missiles, other weapons, not under firm control of the government may have crossed borders, according to intelligence officials.

So, there's a lot of uncertainty still about how firm a security picture there is in Libya and whether this emerging government as enthusiastic as it is, really can control the security picture in the country and can control the weapon stockpiles that are still inside Libya. So, a lot of concern here, even as the world waits, right now for final word about what has happened to Moammar Gadhafi.

STOUT: All right. Barbara Starr joining us live from the Pentagon there. Thank you very much, indeed. Let's bring up Ibrahim Omar Dabbashi. He is the former Libyan ambassador to the United Nations. He joins us now on the line.

And sir, have you heard anything? Any confirmation about whether Moammar Gadhafi has been captured or killed?

IBRAHIM OMAR DABBASHI, FORMER LIBYAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS (on the phone): Well, the information now I have is (INAUDIBLE) whether I think he is badly wounded, but I don't know whether he survived it or he died after he had been captured. This is to be determined later on by the NTC. STOUT: OK. So, what you're hearing from your sources in the NTC is that Moammar Gadhafi has been captured, perhaps, wounded, not too sure about his condition. Were you able to get any more information about how he was located?

DABBASHI: Well, I think the information that he was trying to fled, but he had his convoy had been caught by the freedom fighters, and he was under extensive fire from the (INAUDIBLE) and his convoy has been almost destroyed the whole convoy and that's how he had been captured.

STOUT: If Moammar Gadhafi has, indeed, been captured. What happens next? Will he go on trial? Will he be sent to the ICC?

DABBASHI: Well, any way, this is really a great day for the Libyan people whether he is alive or he is dead. Anyway, this is the end of the game for Gadhafi and his supporters. And now, I think the Libya is more safe from Gadhafi and the freedom (ph) fighters. If he is alive, certainly, we have to get them to the consultation for the international criminal court about who will try him, whether it will be the international criminal court or the Libyan judicial system.

Anyway, this has needed some confrontation. In terms of Libya (INAUDIBLE) before the international criminal court, but certainly, they need Gadhafi back once the trial and the information in criminal court is finished because Gadhafi has committed a lot of crimes before the (INAUDIBLE) so, he has to be tried about his crimes in Libya.

STOUT: OK. Ibrahim, thank you very much, indeed. That was the former Libyan ambassador to the United Nations joining us on the line there calling this a great day for Libya and that Libya's, in fact, more safe after what he believes to be and has confirmed with his NTC sources the capture of Moammar Gadhafi.


STOUT: Go ahead.

VERJEE: There are many questions, Kristie, at this hour. Is Moammar Gadhafi captured? Has he been killed? Was he wounded? Where did this happen? How did this happen? When exactly did this happen? CNN cannot independently confirm what is going on. There is expected to be some kind of a statement from the NTC leadership in the coming hours that will make it clear.

They want to be really careful because they have made mistakes before. But make no mistakes when you look at the street scenes here in Tripoli, in Sirte, people are already out chanting and celebrating because they know a big fish has been caught, they think, it's Moammar Gadhafi.

Joining us now from London is David Hartwell, the editor at Jane's Islamic Affairs. Thanks for being with us. We're just hearing reports that Moammar Gadhafi could be dead. If he is dead, could it ignite more violence? DAVID HARTWELL, EDITOR, JANE'S ISLAMIC AFFAIRS: I think that's probably unlikely. I think even though the international community, perhaps, would not like to admit it, that would be, in a way, the easiest way and quickest way of ending -- helping bring an end to the insurgency or the resistance that Gadhafi was putting up.

So, although, you know, publicly they said they want to bring him, you know, to trial if he has been killed in fact, and in a way removes one of the major obstacles to reconciliation and reconstruction in the future.

VERJEE: Just give our viewers a sense of what this means because many of them for 42 years have only known the autocratic rule of Moammar Gadhafi. How would they be processing this possible information?

HARTWELL: It's very difficult because once you -- if you live under a system where in theory, as your correspondents has said earlier, that, you know, you have -- in theory you have power, but in actual fact, you have none. You're constantly told that, you know, all the decisions are made by you as a person in this kind of system (ph), but, in actual fact, power lies with one man.

Then, you know, how you use to assimilate yourself into a new culture and how you begin to build in a political culture where one has not previously existed before is a huge challenge, and yet, it's also quite liberating but also very, very sort of anxious times ahead for the Libyan people.

VERJEE: How had he run Libya?

HARTWELL: How had he run Libya?

VERJEE: How did he run the country?

HARTWELL: He run the country on the (INAUDIBLE) because you had systems of committees and hierarchies of general people's committees, what an actual fact was the country was run by close of Gadhafi's family, his friends, his revolutionary colleagues from the 1969 revolution.

So, power really lay was a very, very small band of people. Yet, the impression given out to the international community was that, you know, this is perfect democracy. When, in fact, it wasn't.

VERJEE: If this is true, if he has been either captured or killed, what are the key things that the NTC needs to be careful about now at this critical and historic turning point?

HARTWELL: The key challenge, I think, is moving forward with the reconciliation, moving forward with the transition program, because there's going to be changes if Gadhafi has been captured or killed, then Mahmoud Jibril, the prime minister has already said that he will resign at that point.

So, there are going to be changes that in the personnel of the NTC, but the NTC challenges to bring onboard those groups that haven't been previously passed at the NTC and also bring in the tribal elements that, maybe perhaps, alongside Gadhafi.

There's going to be changes if Sirte has fallen, if Gadhafi has been captured or killed, then the prime minister has already said that he will resign at that point. So there are going to be changes that in the personnel of the NTC.

But the NTC challenges to bring onboard those groups that haven't been previously passed at the NTC and also bring in the tribal elements that perhaps alongside Gadhafi. All these groups need to be brought into a bit of a process that are able to move the country forward in a way that is inclusive and not divisive.

VERJEE: David Hartwell, thank you so much.

Let's go straight to the Pentagon and to CNN's Barbara Starr who has some new information from her sources. Barbara?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You've been listening to CNN International. We're going back to domestic right now. Good morning to you. I'm Carol Costello.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. And joining us now is former assistant secretary of state Jamie Rubin. We've been watching coverage of reports that Moammar Gadhafi has been captured in this town of Sirte. You're watching jubilation in the streets in part because the transitional council is now saying they have control of this port city that is the birthplace of the hometown of Moammar Gadhafi. We're being very careful, though, because we've not able to confirm the reports that he's dead.

COSTELLO: They have long suspected that he is hiding out in his hometown. Fierce fighting has gone on there for a couple months there. We don't know yet whether Moammar Gadhafi has been captured. We heard reports that he was shot in both legs as he was running away. We heard reports that he was found in a hole saying "don't shoot, don't shoot," and we've also had reports that Moammar Gadhafi is dead.

Let's bring in Jamie Rubin now to get some perspective on what this means for Libya and for the United States. So your initial reaction?

JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: I think this feels like a good news day. It feels like a dictator has paid the price for decades of brutality, that was inevitable once the rebels decided to fight him and NATO decided to help the rebels this day was going to happen.

And I think if you look back over the last few months, it's actually not that long of time. The Arab spring, it's fall now. In a few short months Libya has gone from brutal dictatorship to the freedom that you're seeing on the streets, the end of Gadhafi, assuming that he's either captured or killed.

And now the real beginning of the new Libya starts with the death of Gadhafi. I think until now there has been a sort of transitional phase and one hasn't quite known what to think about Libya. The world hasn't quite known what to see it as. I think with the death of Gadhafi, if that's what it is, or his capture, if that's what it is. Then the new Libya really does begin the day after that.

COSTELLO: His capture or death is really symbolic because Libya has been in control of the National Transitional Council for many month now. They just wanted the final thing of getting Moammar Gadhafi. Does this justify, now, the United States involvement in Libya? Because remember there was a lot of controversy about that. Republicans were saying, why are we getting involved? It is going to take longer than a couple of months. The president saying, no, no, no, we are going to be involved in a big way for just a short period of time and then we'll be involved in a smaller way, and it seems that is exactly what happened.

RUBIN: That is what happened. This was always, in my mind, one of the easiest use of force calls in modern times. Think about it. You had a brutal dictator threatening to kill, a mass murder of his civilian population. You had a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force. You had the Arab League, the actual Arab League, all the Arab leaders asking the United States to come into an Arab country and help one side. You had a rebel army willing to fight. And you had a desert where air power could make a huge difference without the need for ground forces.

So the use of air power, it seemed to me, was always one of the easiest calls possible. You had a legitimacy and efficacy.

COSTELLO: We will interrupt you for just a second because we had a picture just come in to CNN. This is very gory. We believe this is Moammar Gadhafi, and we believe this shows his dead body. So, here is the picture. Again, we have not confirmed this through CNN. This is an AFP photo. This certainly looks like Moammar Gadhafi, Jamie.

RUBIN: It does. And it looks like what would happen you were hiding and you got caught. And I think, frankly, if this is correct, and it sure looks correct, this solves a lot of the legal problems that they were going to face because I think there would have been a struggle between the new Libyan government, the National Transitional Council, and the international community over justice because although the Libyan new government wanted to see him tried in Libya and said so as early as recently as this morning that that would be their goal. I think the rest of the world would have doubted not only a fair trial, but not seen as a fair trial.

ROMANS: The next thing here is what kind of insurgency, if any, comes up out of this, or if this is over, if this fighting is completely done in Sirte or -- there is still one son I think that they're still trying to track down. Could there be some kind of retaliation coming up around him, a new insurgency, or does it end here?

RUBIN: I think we'll know within 24 hours or so assuming, that everything we think that happened has happened including whether Gadhafi is dead, whether the resistance, the last bit of resistance is organized around the Gadhafi family or whether part of some deeper civil war. My guess is that it will die down.

ROMANS: Jamie, the Libyan military, the head of the NTC, the head of the National Transitional Council, the military arm, has announced on Al Jazeera that Moammar Gadhafi is dead.

COSTELLO: Apparently those pictures have been confirmed that was Moammar Gadhafi.

We'll throw it to the Pentagon now. Barbara Starr, NATO was involved in the fierce fighting going on this morning in Sirte. What part do you think NATO played in Moammar Gadhafi's death?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We do have a clue here. Just a little while ago NATO officials confirmed that NATO aircraft earlier today -- I want to just read this to you. "At approximately 8:30 local time," this is from NATO, "NATO aircraft struck two pro-Gadhafi forces military vehicles which were part of a larger group maneuvering in the vicinity of Sirte. These armed vehicles were conducting military operations and presented a clear threat to civilians."

So what we know now is that NATO struck a convoy, air strikes against a convoy in the vicinity of Sirte where the fighting was taking place and they believed it was possible Gadhafi was hiding. Now, a NATO official tells me when they struck this convoy they did not know at that time precisely that Gadhafi was in it.

Right now, they are trying to put all the pieces together and see from the Libyan authorities if that's where they believe they got Gadhafi, if he was, in fact, in this convoy that they struck. So they are still awaiting the official statement from the National Transitional Council out of Libya.

This is being worked, you know, really, as they say, on a political level, capital to capital at the highest levels between NATO, Washington, NATO members, and the Libyan authorities. Once the Libyans make the official statement, I think you will then see NATO responding with an official statement and then perhaps President Obama.

The other new development that we have confirmed is NATO says that within the next couple of days, the NATO supreme commander, the top military commander in NATO will make a recommendation about ending the military operations over Libya. And then NATO will convene a special session and take a vote on that. It may not happen immediately that the operations are ended, but they are going to consider it and they're going to take a vote about ending the operations.

This does not mean that there are not significant security concerns in Libya. One of the top concerns, as we've all discussed, are these perhaps these thousands of surface to air missiles and other weapons that are not under the control of the government. So that remains a concern. There will certainly still be a very significant involvement in Libya, but it looks like NATO is getting ready to wrap it up. Carol, Christine? COSTELLO: You know, I was still wondering about those weapons because some sort of security will have to be provided for Libya and not just because of those weapons, because they're trying to set up a new government and one of Gadhafi's sons is still out here.

I want to bring back in Jamie Rubin, because I was talking to you about this before. The national transition council said, hey, we can handle our own security. That brings up security concerns for the rest of the world, not just Libya.

RUBIN: I think that's right. I think there are some concerns around the region and around the world that Libya could become very chaotic. And since there's such great hope that this really can turn from a terrible dictatorship to a model of a new Arab world with the help of the west but most of the work done by the people themselves. There's great hope here.

But if there are these weapons floating around. If one of the sons still has 200, 300, 400 mercenaries at his beck and call, if there are still tribes in the hometown region of Colonel Gadhafi that are determined to fight for bigger reasons than adjust Gadhafi because they feel they will suffer in a new Libya, you still have the potential for a low-grade civil conflict, and I don't think that you have a lot of confidence in the rest of the world that this new Libyan military, whatever it becomes will be stable enough, successful enough, and follow the rule of law and have even a modicum of effectiveness across the country.

COSTELLO: We want to clarify something about the picture we showed. We're not clear -- we're not exactly sure what this shows. But it appears to be Moammar Gadhafi. It appears to be his bloodied body. We don't know if he's dead in this photo.

ROMANS: The AFP photo, it's very graphic, I want to warn you before we show you again. This is a photo taken by AFP at the time of his capture. AFP says in the caption of this photo it was taken with a cell phone camera and that it shows a badly wounded Moammar Gadhafi. You can clearly see a little chaotic. There are a lot of people around there clearly grabbing him.

But it's showing the arrest of this man in Sirte, it says. The Libyan Transitional Council commander told AFP that he was captured when that hometown was falling and he was very badly wounded. This picture shows just how wounded he was at the time of his arrest.

COSTELLO: That makes sense, because earlier reports were that he was shot in the legs as he was running away, but we don't know that for sure either. Let's head to Washington and check in with Athena Jones, our White House correspondent. Any word coming out of the White House yet, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet. There's been no comment. They haven't confirmed whether Gadhafi has been killed or captured. Yet as you can imagine, this is the sort of thing that they're going to be very, very careful about. There's also lots of activity behind the scenes as officials to get the information they can get. But of course, as soon as they confirm it, we would expect to see at least some sort of paper statement, if not followed by an on-camera statement because this would be big news, of course.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. We were talking about this before. This is kind of exactly how the White House told the American people it would go. So you would assume this would be a big victory for the Obama administration.

JONES: Absolutely. You know, back in August in Martha's Vineyard he made a comment about what had happened then. There were lots of efforts then by the rebels and lots of gains then. But he said at the time, it's still not over even though back then in August it was clear that the Gadhafi regime was nearing its end. He knew that there was still several -- still a very fluid situation, and as we're seeing today, it's still fluid. So we'll expect to keep on the White House today and to expect to hear from them when they confirm this and see a statement coming from them.

Certainly President Obama put a lot on the line when the U.S. was criticized for what he said leading from behind in this effort in Libya. And so we're all waiting to see what the White House comes out to say later on.

COSTELLO: Athena Jones, I know you'll stay right there. And when someone pops out, We'll get you on the air. Thank you so much, Athena Jones, reporting live from Washington.

ROMANS: Let's go to Fouad Ajami, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He's joining us from Palo Alto, California. I know you have been listening to all of our coverage. You've been listening to these developments, and you have been with great attention following all of the developments since the Arab Spring and since the rise of the national transitional council. Your initial reaction to all of this, sir.

FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: My initial reaction is one of sheer joy. I think the transitional council would be too careful to tell their people and the world that this is Gadhafi when it's not Gadhafi. But, you know, justice has been done. It's too bad people like Gadhafi and people like Saddam can only die once. That is the prevailing view of the, of the people they tyrannize and the people they terrorize. So, it's a great day.

COSTELLO: Fouad, a question about that. If Moammar Gadhafi is dead, all along the National Transitional Council said he wanted to give Gadhafi a fair trial and that would prove something about these rebels. It would prove that they're fair minded and moving more towards a democratic form of government. That Moammar Gadhafi's dead. You say you wish he could die twice, but, really?

AJAMI: Well, I think -- I know that they fallen hard times, but there was a line in the "Terminator" where he says you have the right to remain silent. Gadhafi had the right to remain silent. If there is one man in the world who abused a whole nation, who stole its wealth, who took away its liberty, it was none other than Moammar Gadhafi. And the way Gadhafi ends is the way Saddam ended. Saddam came out of a spider hole saying, I'm Saddam Hussein, I want to negotiate. And I think this is justice. This is the game this man played. And I think if you really want one person who has been vindicated in the course of this event and this war, it's actually Sarkozy. He has a new baby, the president of France. He has a new baby, and he has been vindicated in Libya.

ROMANS: That's an interesting point, very interesting point. But the hard work begins now because it's a government that has to really be formed and a legal system that has to be formed and institutions have to be built and an entire oil infrastructure needs to be modernized so it can supply these people with an opportunity, finally.

AJAMI: Yes this is the dawn of a new age for them. And I think they're lucky to have these problems. They have a chance to build a country and many of our colleagues have noted and, as we know, look, this is a rich country. It's not Somalia it's not Yemen, it's not a desperate country, it just had terrible man at the helm.

So the chances for the Libyans look good. They have favorable borders, they have the Mediterranean, they have oil they have two good countries on the borders, Tunisia and Egypt. So in some they have a right to celebrate as we can here in America.

COSTELLO: Lots of celebrations. And we just want to remind our viewers that we have reports that Moammar Gadhafi is dead.

Its 45 minutes past the hour. We just want to bring you up to date. These events have been happening quickly this morning, we should say.

ROMANS: That's right. They really have. You have the National Transitional Council on Al Jazeera saying that he is dead, that Moammar Gadhafi is dead. There is a photograph that has been published from the news agency AFP. I want to warn you about that. It's quite graphic, but it is a picture that AFP says shows him being arrested and badly injured at that time.

We know that a senior administration official say well, White House has not yet confirmed these reports.

COSTELLO: And I don't believe the State Department has confirmed it either. But do we have Jill Dougherty in Kabul? She's our State Department correspondent. Jill, anything coming out of the State Department yet?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Christine and Carol, I can tell you that we just had an interview with Secretary of State Secretary Clinton and just as we were setting up for that interview, the news was breaking. So of course I asked her about that and she said she cannot confirm these reports, but I asked her what the significance would be if it were true. And she said it would add legitimacy and relief, as she put it, for the new government. If Gadhafi was still at large, the Secretary said they would still have problems and continued security. But without him they'll have problems, of course, but there won't be this organized movement by the loyalists -- Christine, Carol.

COSTELLO: The Secretary of State was in Libya not too long ago. Do you know what they discussed?

DOUGHERTY: Well, obviously, that was nothing new apparently at this point that he was going to be captured or killed, but certainly, they did discuss Gadhafi and the way we've been talking about it. In fact, I was in Libya just a few weeks ago. It was usually the idea was he was at large but the country had, in effect, moved on. That they were starting to form a government, that fighting was continuing but essentially he was out of the picture.

However, you have to say that symbolically and, also, in the kind of command and control way, it's very important if these reports are correct that he is gone. Just to have him out of the -- having the capability of telling any loyalist to continue the fight. (INAUDIBLE)

Remember that they were not going to say that the country had been liberated until Sirte was captured and certainly if this news about Gadhafi is true, that would be a big boon for their ability to move forward politically in every other way.

ROMANS: Jill, it's Christine. You know, clearly, there's a lot of work to do in these -- in these critical hours after this news. I mean, Jamie Rubin was just saying you want to watch to see if there's any kind of insurgency; what kind of -- maybe she can't hear me I think maybe she dropped up.

COSTELLO: Well, she is in Kabul, Afghanistan and so it's very difficult to set communication.

ROMANS: And she was setting up an interview with the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, ironically, was just in Libya. Meeting, you know the first -- the most high-profile visit from the U.S. diplomat, the first big visit from a U.S. diplomat to the -- to the rebels and just hours really before this news of Moammar Gadhafi.


COSTELLO: I know, she was sitting down with the National Transitional Council. I understand she sat down with the President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai and that's probably what Jill Dougherty is going to talk to her about. But I'm sure she'll expand her questions to include what's happening now in Libya.

Jamie Rubin, it's just -- it's just an amazing development because at one point because it's taken so long to find Moammar Gadhafi, some people thought it would never happen. Some people thought he had escaped to another country and was hiding there.

Others thought oh he must be in Sirte because such fierce fighting has been going on in that part of Libya.

RUBIN: Well, it looks like that was the issue was that there was a place where the loyalists have to go. They have to go somewhere if they're not going to leave the country and they amalgamated in that city it appears at defending their -- either their leader or the person who was paying their salaries if they were mercenaries.

And -- and what I think is really important to do now is to find the son Saif, to find the leader that might have taken over and might have abilities to gather some of these remaining rebels, I guess not rebels, remaining forces.


RUBIN: And remaining mercenaries in some organized way. That's what you want to prevent. You want to get right in there and have this -- the nationwide sense of relief that you're going to see over the next 24 hours really be so persuasive and so all powerful that those remaining with guns who might have continued to fight just realized that it's pointless. Because you don't want to have 300, 400, 500 angry people with nothing to lose who have weapons at their disposal.

ROMANS: Let's bring in Ben Wedeman, because weapons at their disposal of something he knows firsthand. You're the expert on the region and we're quite fortunate to have you here. Just a few weeks ago you were showing these pictures of a unattended munitions that could be quite dangerous if not secured and allowed to get into a dangerous hands.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well there are weapons all over Libya I mean, I've rarely seen a country where it's just brimming with all sorts of weapons. And it's not just weapons that insurgents in theory could get their hands on. It's things like surface to air missiles some of which are quite effective and that's a worry beyond Gadhafi whether he's been caught, whether he's dead, whether there's going to be an insurgency led by him and his sons or an insurgency that comes as a result of the misrule by the Transitional National Council.

COSTELLO: We just want -- we just want to confirm something you bring up you whether we can confirm this reports that Moammar is dead. AFP is reporting that the National Transitional Council spokesperson has confirmed that Moammar Gadhafi is dead.

As a correspondent who's covered that region and has been in that country at the height of the fight, just your reaction Ben, to the news that Moammar Gadhafi is -- I guess we're 99 percent sure now he is dead.

WEDEMAN: Well, I think you're seeing it on the streets of Tripoli, Benghazi and Mesrata, all these places in Libya. There's huge relief because there was a worry among many Libyans that if he's not caught, if he remains at large, then he could indeed be a huge source of instability in a country that's already very unstable. So the fact that he's been caught and possibly this may lead to the capture of Sail al-Islam, his other son and his other sons this could mean some closure for Libya. But given the uncertain political future of Libya with or without Moammar Gadhafi, it's really hard to say whether this is the beginning of the end or just the beginning of another phase.

ROMANS: We're going to go out to Dan Rivers.

COSTELLO: Where is Dan Rivers?

ROMANS: He's in Tripoli.

And he's going to be do an interview with the minister of information. So we're going to get hopefully more news now, the real confirmation, that last one percent clarity of whether Moammar Gadhafi is dead. Let's go now to CNN International.

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, there is wild celebration on the streets of Tripoli here. Everyone believes that Colonel Moammar Gadhafi has been either captured or killed.

I'm joined now by the Minister of Information, Mahmoud Shammam who just got off the phone. What more can you tell us, sir?

MAHMOUD SHAMMAM, MINISTER OF INFORMATION: Every report we got from Mesrata and Sirte indicate and confirm that Colonel Gadhafi has been dead and the way that he died we cannot confirm it yet. We are waiting now for (INAUDIBLE) to come on a press conference or a press statement and confirm this officially.

Our official line that will not confirm anything unless the chairman or the prime minister confirmed that. But every indication that we got from the field that Colonel Gadhafi is history.

RIVERS: The world is watching this and the world is thinking this is just one of the most historic days in Libya's history. You are fairly certain now that he is dead. What is your reaction when that is confirmed? It is a massive day for this country.

SHAMMAM: It is, indeed a historic moment not only for liberation for our land, but also for the falling of the most dictator on the earth. Libyan people have stopped to celebrate. I hope that we're not going to lose more life by the celebration, but they deserve everything to be happy about and celebrate about.

RIVERS: What can you tell us about the circumstances in which he was killed? Was he killed by NTC fighters or NATO?

SHAMMAM: According to our people, they are saying they are attacking the house who -- he was there and he tried to flee and they killed him. When they met him, he was alive and he was killed in action.

RIVERS: He was shot by NTC? SHAMMAM: This is what we got from our people in Misrata and Sirte. The whole story would be told by Mr. (INAUDIBLE) maybe in one hour or so. I know that the body that the government want to see are moving and the deputy prime minister and the minister of wounded and nurses are on their way to Mesrata to confirm that. Everybody is patient a little bit, we're going to have everything in an hour or so.

RIVERS: Was he killed while he was in a vehicle or while he was in a building?

SHAMMAM: I told he was killed when he was trying to ride a vehicle. But I cannot confirm any of these stories. This is speculation. We're going to hear a lot of stories. But I think in a few hours, we're going to have the whole story. This is a historic moment and we like to make sure that we have the true story to be told to the world. The world are supporting Libya and they deserve to hear the real story of killing of a dictator.

RIVERS: Thank you very much indeed Mahmoud Shammam, information minister for the NTC here. The 20th of October, I think it's fair to say, will go down in history as a pivotal point in the revolution here in the struggle to get rid of Gadhafi. One of the most dramatic days in the Arab Spring. Back to you.

COSTELLO: Dan Rivers, I suppose we have 100 percent confirmation that Moammar Gadhafi is dead. At least we think we do. Dan Rivers reporting live from Tripoli, many thanks to you. We had a new picture that came into us.

ROMANS: That's right, a new picture from AFP, the news agency, that we'll show you in a moment, if we have it up. But it is a picture of a -- it looks like a storm drain and a concrete tunnel or two tubes. There is a loyalist who is next to it who is clearly dead and then the words scrawled above it in Arabic.

Ben Wedeman saw that picture, as well, that said --

WEDEMAN: Here lies the place of the rat, Gadhafi. Beneath that it said Allah Akbar which means God is great. Of course, the use of the word rat. He called the rebels rats from the very beginning and they sort of started to play on that. They would call him a rat. So, it was a good deal of humor, despite this grim situation.

ROMANS: Well, you heard from Mahmoud Shammam, from the NTC what he was just saying about, he said that he was dead but how he was dead he couldn't confirm. Still trying to, still trying to be cautious, even now, about what's going on here.

WEDEMAN: Because communications aren't very good. So many times before, we heard that his sons were killed in this place or that place and it turned out not to be true. And the NTC, itself, would tell us afterwards that this was really just a propaganda ploy to throw their enemies, the loyalists off the track. So, yes, we really must wait until --

COSTELLO: Going back to that picture, though, the earlier reports we had that Moammar Gadhafi was hiding out in a hole and, of course, that could be the storm drains that we saw. So, I mean, just in what you know about Moammar Gadhafi, the idea that he was holed up in that storm drain for who knows how long, he came out with his hands up. There were reports that he was saying, don't shoot me, don't shoot me. We don't really know what happened. Just your impressions of Moammar Gadhafi hiding out in that storm drain.

WEDEMAN: It's a bit of a surprise because we knew that he escaped from Tripoli back in August with a large convoy, with a lot of cash and a lot of weapons. For him to end up in a man hole or a sewer, seems a bit out of character.

ROMANS: We're still trying to confirm all these details, I should point out, as well. I mean there are also reports of a big NATO air strike in the region. We don't know exactly how he was killed. NTC saying the same thing. I'm sure we're going to learn more throughout the day. This is, as you point out, a good day for U.S. policy.

RUBIN: I think it is for the west and for NATO and as your guests earlier mentioned, for Nicolas Sarkozy. Let's face it. President Obama agreed to do something that the French and the British chose to do. It was not unlike previous U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places. This was not led by the United States, this was led by Paris and London. U.S. Provided crucial assistance and, as I said earlier, this seemed pretty easy thing to do considering we had a rebel army on the ground. You had the Arab League asking you to do it.

But even so, some in this country didn't want it to happen. I think President Obama has been vindicated and the idea that in certain circumstances with the right conditions and with U.N. blessing, with support from the region, that the use of force can really turn a dictatorship and help contribute to it becoming a government hopefully based on democratic values. It's an important day.

COSTELLO: Exactly. That's what the world will be watching. What kind of government is finally put into place in Libya. Of course, we here in the United States hope it is a democratic one. We'll just have to see.

That does it for us. Thank you so much.

Breaking news coverage continues with Kyra Phillips and Hala Gorani.