(Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi was killed after being captured by the Libyan fighters he once scorned as "rats," cornered and shot in the head after they overrun his last bastion of resistance in his hometown of Sirte.
His body, bloodied, half naked, Gaddafi's trademark long curls hanging limp around a rarely seen bald spot, was delivered, a prize of war, to Misrata, the city west of Sirte whose siege and months of suffering at the hands of Gaddafi's artillery and sniper made it a symbol of the rebel cause.
A quick and secret burial was due later on Friday.
"It's time to start a new Libya, a united Libya," Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril declared. "One people, one future."
A formal announcement of Libya's liberation, which will set the clock ticking on a timeline to elections, would be made on Saturday, Libyan officials said.
U.S. President Barack Obama, in a veiled dig at the Syrian and other leaders resisting the democrats of the Arab Spring, declared "the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end."
But Gaddafi's death is a setback to campaigners seeking the full truth about the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland of Pan Am flight 103 which claimed 270 lives, mainly Americans, and for which one of Gaddafi's agents was convicted.
Jim Swire, the father of one of the Lockerbie victims, said: "There is much still to be resolved and we may now have lost an opportunity for getting nearer the truth."
"That's for Lockerbie," said the front-page headline in The Sun, Britain's best selling daily newspaper.
Confusion over Gaddafi's death was a reminder of the challenge for Libyans to now summon order out of the armed chaos that is the legacy of eight months of grinding conflict.