Thursday’s death of Qaddafi, two months after he was driven from power and into hiding, decisively buries the nearly 42-year regime that had turned the oil-rich country into an international pariah and his own personal fiefdom.
It also thrusts Libya into a new age in which its transitional leaders must overcome deep divisions and rebuild nearly all its institutions from scratch to achieve dreams of democracy.
"We have been waiting for this historic moment for a long time. Muammar Gaddafi has been killed," Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said in the capital of Tripoli. "I would like to call on Libyans to put aside the grudges and only say one word, which is Libya, Libya, Libya."
Other leaders have fallen in the Arab Spring uprisings, but the 69-year-old Gaddafi is the first to be killed. He was shot to death in his hometown of Sirte, where revolutionary fighters overwhelmed the last of his loyalist supporters Thursday after weeks of heavy battles.
Bloody images of Gaddafi's last moments raised questions over how exactly he died after he was captured wounded, but alive. Video on Arab television stations showed a crowd of fighters shoving and pulling the goateed, balding Gaddafi, with blood splattered on his face and soaking his shirt.
"We want him alive. We want him alive," one man shouted before Gaddafi was dragged off the hood, some fighters pulling his hair, toward an ambulance.
Later footage showed fighters rolling Gaddafi's lifeless body over on the pavement, stripped to the waist and a pool of blood under his head. His body was then paraded on a car through Misrata, a nearby city that suffered a brutal siege by regime forces during the eight-month civil war that eventually ousted Gaddafi. Crowds in the streets cheered, "The blood of martyrs will not go in vain."