SIRTE, LIBYA (RNN) - Ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed Thursday by rebel fighters in his hometown of Sirte, bringing a close to his violent 42-year dictatorship.
"This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya, who now have the opportunity to determine their destiny in a new and democratic Libya," President Barack Obama said from the White House rose garden.
A year ago, the notion of a free Libya seemed impossible, Obama said, but the people chose to rise up, allowing for a "dark shadow of tyranny" to be lifted.
Revolutionary forces across the nation rejoiced in the streets Thursday with celebratory music and gunfire, CNN reported. Others wove flags as they proudly embraced a new chapter in Libyan history.
Gadhafi's violent reign began 42 years ago
Ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi came to power in a bloodless coup against King Idris in 1969.
At the time, Gadhafi was an army captain.
In 1986, Libya was implicated in a fatal bombing at a West Berlin nightclub that left one American service member dead.
After the incident, then President Ronald Reagan dubbed Gadhafi the "mad dog of the Middle East."
Reagan ordered the U.S. to bomb Libya, and he imposed economic sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation.
The latest effort to force Gadhafi from power began within his own country in February.
The Libyan leader vowed to never leave Libya, and to "die as a martyr at the end."
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Interim Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril first confirmed the news to reporters Thursday morning in Tripoli.
Speaking from London, Mahmoud Al Nacoua, Libyan ambassador to the United Kingdom, said that the people of Libya had finally succeeded in drawing the curtain on Gadhafi's crimes.
"Their brave actions have spared Libya and the world from any further suffering of his evils," he said. "Today, Libya - Libya's future - begins. Gadhafi's black era has come to an end - forever."
According to the Associated Press, the Misrata Military Council, one of multiple command groups for revolutionary forces, said its fighters captured Gadhafi in Sirte.
Guma El-Gamaty, a Libyan political activist, confirmed Gadhafi's death to CNN on Thursday morning, saying the dictator was captured in or near a building in Sirte that was still under loyalist control.
El-Gamaty said he believes Gadhafi was inside a building that was stormed by freedom fighters, and he was injured from the fire fight.
Gadhafi later died from head wounds while in route to Misrata, according to El-Gamaty, who is also a former representative to the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC).
A graphic cell phone video obtained by Al Jazeera shows the corpse of a blood-drenched and shirtless man laid out on concrete. The body is believed to be a seriously injured Gadhafi arriving in Misrata.
"The world is a better place, and the Libyan people now have a chance," Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, ranking member of the Senate armed services committee, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Obama said Thursday was just the beginning for Libya, who is now faced with the task of building an entirely new government.
"Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy," he said. "There will be tough days ahead."
Anees al-Sharif, spokesman for AbdelHakim Belhajj of the Tripoli military council, said one of Gadhafi's sons and his chief of intelligence were also killed in Thursday's reign, according to CNN.
Several previous reports of Gadhafi family member deaths or captures have later proved false, because of poor communications in Libya.
"We've had a bunch of those before," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she first received word of Gadhafi's capture. "We've had him captured several times."
Clinton's reaction, which was caught on tape, made headlines Thursday morning.
After just six months of fighting between Gadhafi's forces and rebels, it seemed that the situation in Libya had reached a tipping point on Aug. 22.
"This much is clear: The Gadhafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people," President Barack Obama said in taped remarks from a vacation home in Martha's Vineyard.
Gadhafi has ruled Libya for more than 42 years following a successful military coup.
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