Libyan commander describes Muammar Gaddafi's last moments

An NTC fighter points to a drainage pipe in which Col Muammar Gaddafi is said to have been captured, Sirte, 20 October 2011
Image caption Omran al-Oweib said his men came under fire after they dragged Col Gaddafi from a drainage pipe

The commander of the brigade that captured Col Muammar Gaddafi has said he takes full responsibility for his death.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Omran al-Oweib, a 31-year-old electrical engineer from Misrata, said he tried to save the former Libyan leader's life.

But Col Gaddafi died in his presence while they were on their way to hospital on Thursday.

Mr al-Oweib described in forensic detail the fierce firefight that took place on the outskirts of Sirte.

He said that, as his men dragged the colonel from the by-now infamous drainage pipe, they came under fire from three sides.

In the heat and chaos of the battle, he said, it was impossible to tell who had fired the lethal bullet.

"I didn't see which weapon killed Gaddafi," he said.

"There was [shooting] coming from the hole and from the street. [People were] running from the side, running and shooting to save themselves."

The commander admitted that some of his fighters had wanted to kill the former dictator on the spot. But he said he had pleaded with then not to. He wanted to bring him back alive.

"I tried to save his life," he said, "but I couldn't. I couldn't do anything for him. Even though he was my enemy, I wanted to take him alive to Misrata, to judge him."

"What's up, guys?"

Mr Oweib said that Col Gaddafi was already wounded when he was dragged from his hiding place.

But, when he was set upon by a furious mob of fighters, the former dictator managed to take just 10 steps before falling to the ground.

When his men first caught him, Mr Oweib said the former Libyan leader appeared not to realise that his hold on power had slipped from his grasp.

"When he came out from the hole, he started saying: 'What's up, guys, please wait. What's the problem? I'm with you. You're not allowed to do that. Hey!' He still thinks he is the president or the dictator."

The commander eventually managed to move him into an ambulance and drove towards the nearest field hospital.

"Many, many [check]points asked me to stop. I did not agree to stop. I asked the driver: 'Please go, please don't stop. Hurry up.'"

But when the ambulance arrived at the field hospital they found the entrance crowded with cars and people.

"I decided to carry him to the air-ambulance."

The air-strip was some distance further to the west. But Col Gaddafi died before they got there.

"Suddenly the doctor told me: 'Gaddafi already passed away.'"

Mr Oweib's account appears to support the assertion by the National Transitional Council that the colonel was killed in crossfire rather than summarily executed by vengeful fighters.

But, when asked who he thought was responsible for Muammar Gaddafi's death, he said simply:

"Gaddafi passed away on the front line. I am responsible for that. I am the commander."

Omran al-Oweib now plans to return to his civilian life as an electrical engineer.

"We started with a civilian revolution. After that, Gaddafi changed this revolution to a war. The revolution starts now. Because the revolution means: build our country, correct our mistakes in our country."