>Gadhafi dies after being captured in hometown Sirte
>Christians remain concerned as fighting continues
>Special prayer services have been held
>Hungary’s Foreign Minister tells BosNewsLife EU, Hungary ready to help Libya
By BosNewsLife Africa Service
TRIPOLI, LIBYA (BosNewsLife)– Moammar Gadhafi, the autocratic former Libyan leader who ruled his country with an iron fist for over 40 years, has died in rebel hands, a spokesman said Thursday, October 20, but minority Christians remained concerned about their nation’s future.
Video footage broadcast on Libyan television showed Gadhafi’s bloodied corpse lying on the ground, surrounded by National Transition Council (NTC) forces who took custody of the body.
The head of Libya’s NTC, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, confirmed Gadhafi’s death at a news conference in Tripoli. He was 69 years old. The United States said it also received confirmation of his death from Libyan officials.
Yet, the circumstances of Gadhafi’s killing were not clear.
NTC fighters claimed Gadhafi was found hiding under ground and shot and killed as they crushed remaining resistance by Gadhafi loyalists in Sirte. The Western military alliance NATO said its warplanes attacked two vehicles of pro-Gadhafi forces that were maneuvering around Sirte, 360 kilometers (225 miles) east of the capital Tripoli.
Earlier officials said Gadhafi was injured in his legs while trying to escape from what is his hometown, but those reports were difficult to verify. The location of another Gadhafi son, Saif al-Islam, was not clear. Libyan officials believe he is on the run in the vast Libyan desert
As news about the former leader’s death and capture spread, celebrations erupted across the country.
Minority Christians however have held special prayer meetings, including in Tripoli, amid concerns about their future and that of the nation, Christians with close knowledge about the situation told BosNewsLife earlier.
There are also worries about black African Christians who have often been confused by rebels with Gadhafi mercenaries, said Open Doors, an advocacy group supporting reportedly persecuted Christians.
“Believers from African origin are not going outside the city for their own safety, but otherwise everyone is safe,” added an Open Doors source earlier, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Heavily Islamic Libya currently ranks number 25 on the annual Open Doors’ World Watch List of 50 nations known for their reported persecution of Christians.
It is prohibited to evangelize to Muslims or distribute Arabic scriptures, according to Open Doors investigators. Small Christian communities are mainly containing expatriates.
Several countries have evacuated them when war broke out, but Libyan Christians staying behind faced tense moments since the NATO alliance started a bombing campaign to stop Gadhafi’s crackdown on opponents.
Before news of Gadhafi’s death emerged Thursday, October 20, the Arab World Ministries group announced it asked believers around the world to pray for Libya’s minority Christians, who comprise about 2.5 percent of the North African country’s mainly Sunni Muslim population of roughly 6.6 million people.
Hungary, one of the last nations to maintain a diplomatic presence in Libya during the war, said it hopes that the NTC will now create a truly democratic state by extend its control over the whole country.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said in a statement to Budapest-based BosNewsLife News Agency that he hopes the NTC will establish the rule of law and start “the process of national reconciliation,” adding that Hungary was ready “to assist Libya” with its reconstruction as part of a European Union effort. (With reporting by Voice of America (VOA) correspondent Elizabeth Arrott in Cairo and Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center).