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NATO Unaware Qaddafi Was in Convoy at Time of Strike, Officials Say

Oct. 20: The wreckage of burnt vehicles from a convoy of pro-Qaddafi fighters trying to flee the town of Sirte, Lybia, lie on the edge of town.

Oct. 20: The wreckage of burnt vehicles from a convoy of pro-Qaddafi fighters trying to flee the town of Sirte, Lybia, lie on the edge of town.  (AP )

NATO acknowledged Friday that its warplanes struck pro-Qaddafi military vehicles but were unaware that the ousted Libyan leader was in the convoy.

NATO's top commander, meanwhile, said he will recommend the end of the alliance's Libya mission. 

NATO said that the 11 military vehicles targeted Thursday were among a heavily-armed convoy of 75 vehicles transporting Muammar Qaddafi away from Sirte "at high speed" at around 8:30 a.m. local time.

"At the time of the strike, NATO did not know that Qaddafi was in the convoy," the statement said. "NATO's intervention was conducted solely to reduce the threat towards the civilian population, as required to do under our UN mandate. As a matter of policy, NATO does not target individuals."

NATO officials added, "We later learned from open sources and Allied intelligence that Qaddafi was in the convoy and that the strike likely contributed to his capture."

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Qaddafi's death Thursday, two months after he was driven from power and into hiding, decisively ended his tyrannical 42-year regime.

Images from the scene show a bloodied Qaddafi in the custody of Libya's former rebels. Exactly how the former dictator died is unclear.

Qaddafi's blood-streaked body was stashed in a commercial freezer at a shopping center Friday as Libyans tried to keep it out of the public eye and away from crowds as they figure out where and when to bury the hated leader.

An AP correspondent saw the body at the shopping center in the coastal city of Misrata. The body, stripped to the waist and wearing beige trousers, was laid on a bloodied mattress on the floor of an emptied-out room-sized freezer where restaurants and stores in the center normally keep perishables.

A bullet hole was visible on the left side of his head -- with the bullet still lodged in his head, according to the presiding doctor -- and in the center of his chest and stomach. His hair was matted and dried blood streaks his arms and head.

Outside the shopping center, hundreds of civilians from Misrata jostled to get inside for a peek at the body, shouting "God is great" and "We want to see the dog."

The makeshift provisions for the corpse -- at one point it was kept in a private house on Thursday -- reflected the disorganization and confusion that has surrounded Qaddafi's death. His burial had been planned for Friday, in accordance with Islamic traditions calling for quick interrment. But the interim government delayed it, saying the circumstances of his death still had to be determined. Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam also said authorities are "debating right now what the best place is to bury him."

Bloody images of Qaddafi's last moments have raised questions over how exactly he died. Video on Arab television stations showed a crowd of fighters shoving and pulling the goateed, balding Qaddafi, with blood splattered on his face and soaking his shirt.

Qaddafi struggled against them, stumbling and shouting as the fighters pushed him onto the hood of a pickup truck. One fighter held him down, pressing on his thigh with a pair of shoes in a show of contempt.

Fighters propped him on the hood as they drove for several moments, apparently to parade him around in victory.

"We want him alive. We want him alive," one man shouted before Qaddafi was dragged off the hood, some fighters pulling his hair, toward an ambulance.

Later footage showed fighters rolling Qaddafi'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 Qaddafi. Crowds in the streets cheered, "The blood of martyrs will not go in vain."

Libyan leaders said it appeared that Qaddafi had been caught in the crossfire and it was unclear who fired the bullet that killed him.

Shammam said a coroner's report showed that Qaddafi was killed by a bullet to the head and died in the ambulance on the way to a field hospital. Qaddafi was already injured from battle when he was found in the drainage pipe, Shammam said.

"It seems like the bullet was a stray and it could have come from the revolutionaries or the loyalists," Shammam said, echoing an account given by Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril the night before. "The problem is everyone around the event is giving his own story."

Shammam said that the NTC was expecting a report from Financial Minister Ali Tarhouni who was sent as an envoy to Misrata on Thursday.

The governing National Transitional Council said interim leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil will formally declare liberation on Saturday in the eastern city of Benghazi, where the revolution against Qaddafi's rule began in mid-February. The NTC has always said it will form a new interim government within a month of liberation and will hold elections within eight months.

Newscore and the Associated Press contributed to this report.