SIRTE, Libya — Omar Befaila is sweeping up the ruins of what used to be his home and his shop in Sirte, the hometown of Moamer Kadhafi where the former dictator holed up until his capture and death last week.
The city that stretches away from the shores of the Mediterranean and into the hot desert sands of Libya has been reduced to rubble, a ghost town filled with the stench of death and where bodies litter the streets.
Eight months after the launch of a popular uprising to unseat him and after weeks of fierce combat backed by daily NATO air strikes at Sirte, fighters are streaming out of the city in convoys of pickup trucks, tanks and a wild assortment of other vehicles.
"It's over. We are going home. Kadhafi is dead," shouts a beaming National Transitional Council fighter.
In June 1942 Kadhafi was born in the vicinity of this ancient fishing and commercial port and more than 69 years later, on Thursday, he was captured and killed in Sirte.
Outside the city centre, relief workers prepare to bury more than 175 bodies covered with white plastic sheets -- the last Kadhafi soldiers killed in a NATO air strike as they fled in a convoy.
The remains of 25 charred bodies lie nearby.
Kadhafi was captured as he tried to flee Sirte but died in circumstances that are still unclear. New regime officials say he was killed in a exchange of fire while others say he was summarily executed.
Al-Mahari hospital close to Sirte's city centre is riddled with bullets and shells.
An overpowering odour rises from Al-Mahari hospital, close to Sirte's city centre, where more than 60 corpses are rotting on the lawn.
Many of the victims have been killed execution-style, a bullet to the head. Some have been bound hand and foot.
"The hospital was used as a prison by Kadhafi's men. We found it the day Kadhafi died. Our men were held prisoner here," said Sharif Ahmad Sharif, an NTC fighter.
"Kadhafi's men executed the prisoners before leaving," he said. Other fighters agreed, adding that the city is littered with corpses.
"We have evacuated so many. I cannot keep count. Hundreds, thousands...," said Sadduk al-Banani, who works for the Libyan non-governmental organisation Tabiya.
Kadhafi had grandiose plans for Sirte, and even considered once making it the capital of Libya, building there a luxurious conference centre where only last year he hosted an Arab summit.
All that now is devastated.
The destruction is more vivid around the city centre where bullet casings cover streets and sidewalks.
Not one building is intact. Windows are shattered. Shops are shuttered and the city's 120,000 residents are nowhere to be seen.
The district known as Number Two neighbourhood, where Kadhafi loyalists made their final stand carries the signs of fierce street fighting.
Buildings are reduced to rubble, roofs have caved in, electricity pylons have been felled, cutting off roads.
"Sirte is over. There is nothing left for me here," says Ahmad Ali as he prepares to drive away from the city.
The old man has packed his pickup truck with mattresses, blankets and other meagre possessions he managed to salvage from his house.
Sliman Kilani, a fighter from Misrata, says that some families have returned to Sirte since Thursday to retrieve personal belongings. "But no one stays behind. They go as quickly as they come."
But Omar Beifala says he wants to stay in Sirte.
A dozen relatives help him sweep away the rubble outside the two-storey building that is home to him and his family.
"That is my house. That is my shop. All is ruined," he says.
The building has been gutted, the family quarters on the second floor have been vandalised and his grocery store is filled with twisted metal and debris.
"Kadhafi's men and the revolutionaries have done this," says Beifala.
"They are all the same," he adds. "All this is very sad. Very sad."
Bursts of gunfire can be heard in the distance as fighters continue to celebrate their victory while smoke rises into the grey skies. And the air rankles with the smell of rotting bodies.
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