By BRADLEY KLAPPER and JULIE PACE
WASHINGTON (AP) - WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says the death of Moammar Gadhafi marks the end of a long and painful chapter for Libya.
Speaking Thursday from the White House Rose Garden, the president says the Libyan people now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny. He says they also have a great responsibility to build a tolerant and democratic Libya.
Obama did not independently confirm Gadhafi's death, and instead cited the fact that Libyan officials have announced his killing.
A White House official says the U.S. has received similar reports through diplomatic channels and has confidence in those reports.
Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered cautious optimism about Libya's future Thursday following the death of Moammar Gadhafi.
Biden, speaking at an event in Plymouth, N.H., said the Libyan people had rid themselves of a dictator and have now "got a chance" with Gadhafi gone. Clinton spoke during a trip to Pakistan and said the developments represented a "new opportunity for Libya to move forward to the future."
Underscoring the Obama administration's careful handling of the news of Gadhafi's death, neither Biden nor Clinton would officially confirm that the longtime Libyan leader had been killed.
President Barack Obama was to make his first comments on Gadhafi's death during a Rose Garden appearance Thursday afternoon. A White House official said Obama would cite the fact that Libyan officials had announced Gadhafi's death. The U.S. has received similar reports through diplomatic channels and has confidence in those reports, the official said.
Libya's Transitional National Council informed the United States of Gadhafi's death. Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril announced to his nation that the moment so many had waited for had come, a U.S. official said.
Gadhafi's death comes seven months after U.S. and NATO forces launched a bombing campaign in Libya to protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Gadhafi. While the U.S. initially took the lead in that campaign, it quickly stepped back to a secondary role to other NATO allies.
Biden applauded the U.S. decision to seek broad international backing for the Libya mission.
"In this case, America spent $2 billion total and didn't lose a single life. This is more of the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward than it has been in the past," Biden said during a speech in Plymouth, N.H.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., hailed Gadhafi's death as "an end to the first phase of the Libyan revolution." The U.S. and Europe "must now deepen our support of the Libyan people," McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., praised the Obama administration's involvement in Libya, saying the U.S. "demonstrated clear-eyed leadership, patience and foresight by pushing the international community into action."
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said Gadhafi's death represented an opportunity for Libya to make a peaceful and responsible transition to democracy.
"How things move forward in Libya will send critical signals to the rest of the region and the world," he said.
Even before Gadhafi's death, the U.S. moved swiftly to assist Libya's National Transitional Council, providing the rebel-led group with financial assistance. In July, the U.S., along with allies in Europe and the Middle East, recognized the NTC as Libya's official government. And last month, the U.S. ambassador to Libya returned to Tripoli to lead a newly reopened American Embassy in a post-Gadhafi era.
Clinton made a surprise trip earlier this week to Tripoli, where she said she hoped Gadhafi would be killed or captured. Clinton offered about $11 million in additional aid to Libya, boosting Washington's contribution since the uprising against Gadhafi began in February to roughly $135 million.
The new package includes medical aid for wounded fighters and additional assistance to secure weapons that many fear could fall into the hands of terrorists. Aides said the money is meant partly as a pledge of ongoing U.S. support during what will be a difficult passage to free elections and a new government after four decades of dictatorship.
Initial reports from fighters said Gadhafi had been holed up with the last of his fighters in a furious battle with revolutionary fighters assaulting the last few buildings his forces held in his Mediterranean coastal hometown of Sirte. At one point, a convoy tried to flee the area and was blasted by NATO airstrikes, though it was not clear if Gadhafi was in one of the vehicles.
Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.
Here's information from earlier reports-
By LORI HINNANT
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi died today as his hometown fell to the one-time rebels who ousted him, ending the last vestiges of control for the man once hailed as the "king of kings of Africa."
Here's a running account of the day's developments. All times are local in Libya, which is two hours ahead of GMT and six hours ahead of EDT.
Al-Jazeera television is showing that Gadhafi was captured wounded but alive in Sirte.
The goateed, balding Gadhafi, in a blood-soaked shirt and with a bloodied face, is seen being pushed along by fighters, and he appears to struggle against them, stumbling and shouting. The fighters push him onto the hood of a pickup truck before dragging him away, apparently toward an ambulance.
.Amnesty International is calling for an inquiry into Gadhafi's death.
BREAKING: French defense chief says a French fighter jet fired on the convoy carrying Moammar Gadhafi.
BREAKING: Libyan information minister says Gadhafi's son Muatassim was killed in Sirte.
BREAKING: Clinton says if true, Gadhafi's death is a "new opportunity for Libya to move forward."
BREAKING: Libyan minister says Gadhafi son and one-time heir apparent Seif al-Islam is wounded and in a hospital.
"I'm just going to go out and buy an expensive bottle of champagne to celebrate," says Susan Cohen, who said she's waited for this day since shortly after her 20-year-old daughter was killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, allegedly at Gadhafi's behest.
Many victims were Americans from New Jersey and New York flying home for the holidays.
"This was sort of like Dracula: Is Dracula really dead?" asked Cohen, of Cape May Court House, N.J.
"It's great now that we know. I didn't want him to go to a trial. When you have a tyrant, a monster like him, we're all better off with him dead. Now there can be no illusion of him ever returning to power."
BREAKING: President Barack Obama will make a statement at the White House about the killing of Gadhafi at 2 p.m. EDT.
BREAKING: Video on Arab TV stations shows Moammar Gadhafi was captured alive and wounded.
The price of oil is falling after Gadhafi's death, although it will take months for Libya's oil industry to recover from the months of fighting, and for the full impact to be felt on world markets. Oil fell 33 cents to $85.28 per barrel in New York today.
Hillary Rodham Clinton learned about reports of Gadhafi's death today in Kabul, between interviews with television networks.
Television crews kept the cameras rolling between takes. At one point, Clinton's assistant, Huma Abedine, handed her a BlackBerry to show her the report.
"Wow. Huh," Clinton said. "Unconfirmed."
She noted there had been similar reports in the past and handed the phone back, unaware cameras were rolling. Normally the moments between interviews aren't aired, but network producers apparently decided to go with it.
The bodies of suspected Gadhafi loyalists were outside storm drains where Gadhafi was reportedly found in Sirte. The concrete walls of the drains are spray-painted with graffiti and the earth around them is dry.
In the early days of the revolt against him, Gadhafi promised to fight until "the last bullet."
In 1998, 400 Libyan children were infected with HIV at a hospital in Benghazi. The Gadhafi regime accused five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor of deliberately infecting the children.
The medics were arrested, tortured into confessions and eventually sentenced to death, though international experts blamed unhygienic conditions at the hospital for the infections.
After years of wrangling with Europe, Libya released the six in 2007 and they flew to Bulgaria, retracting their confessions.
One of the Bulgarians, Zdravko Georgiev, said Gadhafi's death was not enough:
"Why should I be satisfied? No one will give me back the years spent in prison or undo the tortures sustained."
Britain's jets and helicopters backed the rebels during the NATO campaign, and the government today promised assistance to Libya's new leaders.
"Today is a day to remember all of Gadhafi's victims," British Prime Minister David Cameron said, referring to those in Libya and also the 270 people - mainly British and American - killed in the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The only person charged in the bombing, former Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was freed from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds in 2009 because of illness. He remains alive and in Libya.
Gadhafi's bloodied body was loaded on top of a vehicle and taken to Misrata, a city that was besieged for months by his forces. A large crowd surrounding the vehicle chanted, "The blood of the martyrs will not go in vain."
Russia's presidential envoy to Libya warned that Gadhafi's death may not end the fighting in Libya.
"Today's problem of Libya is not the problem of Gadhafi's life or death," Mikhail Margelov said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. "This is a problem of consolidating fragmented Libyan society and of strengthening the armed forces."
Initial reports from fighters said Gadhafi was holed up with the remnants of his forces in the last few buildings they held in Sirte. At one point, a convoy tried to flee and was blasted by NATO airstrikes. It's not clear if Gadhafi died there or in the buildings.
The Transitional National Council informed the U.S. of Gadhafi's death minutes before Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril's announcement. Reaction from the White House and the U.N. secretary-general are expected shortly.
BREAKING: Libya's prime minister says Moammar Gadhafi has been killed.
U.S. official: Libyan leaders have informed the U.S. that Gadhafi is dead.
Al-Jazeera TV is airing shaky footage of a man resembling Gadhafi lying dead or badly wounded, bleeding from the head and stripped to the waist as fighters roll him over on the pavement.
The White House isn't saying much about developments in Libya while U.S. officials await more word. But even before confirmation, Sen. John McCain called it "an end to the first phase of the Libyan revolution."
He said the U.S. and NATO should continue support for Libya. The U.S. led the start of the NATO air campaign that bolstered the rebel forces in the early days.
Tomorrow marks two months since Tripoli fell to the rebels and Gadhafi disappeared from his compound in the capital. At the time, their transitional government said they dedicated a special unit of crack fighters to track him down.
There have been rumors of Gadhafi's whereabouts for weeks - some said he was in neighboring Niger or Algeria, some said he could be in a bunker deep beneath Tripoli.
Today in Niger, Aghaly Alambo, a native of Niger who became a part of Gadhafi's inner circle, said he was watching TV and following the developments closely, but his own sources in Libya had not yet been able to confirm the reports of Gahdafi's capture.
Libyan officials are calling a news conference in Tripoli with Mahmoud Jibril, the prime minister of the transitional government and the highest-ranking official in the capital now. It's scheduled to begin in 15 minutes.
There are celebrations in the streets in Tripoli as reports spread of Gadhafi's capture or possible death. The transitional government summoned journalists more than an hour ago for an imminent news conference, but they still haven't made an official announcement.
In Sirte, fighters who have battled for months to seize control of the country from Gadhafi's forces embraced in the streets and chanted. "The war, it's finished," one fighter said.
A spokesman for Libya's transitional government says Gadhafi has been captured and possibly killed in the fall of his hometown. Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam says he expects the prime minister to make an announcement in an hour or so. Past reports of Gadhafi's death or capture have been wrong.
NATO confirms they've hit a convoy of Gadhafi loyalists fleeing Sirte, and Libyan fighters say they captured the ousted leader.
White House officials are monitoring the reports of Gadhafi's capture and death but say they can't confirm anything. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was just in Libya yesterday and said then she hoped for his demise. She also offered U.S. aid to the interim government.
Libyan officials and NATO say they can't confirm reports that Gadhafi was captured or killed today when his hometown fell.
Discarded military uniforms of Gadhafi's forces are in the streets. One fighter climbed a traffic light, kissed the revolution's flag then unfurled it.
"The city has been liberated," says Hassan Draoua, a member of Libya's interim government. The Libyan fighters were seen beating captured Gadhafi men in the back of trucks, with officers trying to stop them.
Gadhafi's hometown, Sirte, has fallen to the rebels. Our reporter in the city says Libyan fighters are searching homes and buildings looking for any Gadhafi loyalists who might be hiding.