After reveling Gadhafi's death, fighters near Sirte quietly go home

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Story highlights

  • Hundreds of revolutionary fighters go back home to Misrata
  • Some give conflicting reports about what led to Moammar Gadhafi's death
  • Many claim involvement in Gadhafi's capture
  • The fighters say they want to return to their regular jobs or their studies

One day ago, this outpost on the outskirts of Sirte was the scene of unbridled euphoria as revolutionary fighters captured their greatest prize -- deposed ruler Moammar Gadhafi.

But after the death of the longtime ruler, most of the roughly 500 members of the "Lions of the Wadi" brigade -- who had converted an abandoned resort west of Sirte into their temporary headquarters -- packed up their belongings Friday and quietly drove home to Misrata.

Like many of the revolutionary fighters across Libya, these men aren't really soldiers. They are engineers, doctors, teachers, businessmen -- everyday people united by the common goal of ending Gadhafi's 42-year dictatorship.

For months, they battled better-trained, better-armed pro-Gadhafi forces, despite being hamstrung by a lack of organization and training on heavy weaponry. Then, with the help of NATO airstrikes, revolutionaries managed the seemingly impossible -- toppling Gadhafi's four-decade regime.

Where the men diverged was in their accounts of what led to Gadhafi's death.

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Their stories include Gadhafi dying from injuries sustained in an airstrike to Gadhafi getting killed in a crossfire. But some fighters did not contest the notion that Gadhafi may have been executed -- possibly with his own gun.

Regardless of what or who truly killed Gadhafi, many fighters claimed involvement in his capture. Throngs descended on the area after Sirte -- Gadhafi's hometown -- fell to the revolutionaries, and each of a dozen fighters took credit for playing a role.

As the pro-Gadhafi fighters' defeat seemed imminent, small piles of their green army uniforms were found discarded.

But amid widespread jubilation that was relayed across the world, some scenes of war still emerged.

Several Gadhafi loyalists were slung in the backs of pickup trucks and paraded around Sirte. One loyalist, mangled with injuries, was taunted by some revolutionaries.

But many fighters who celebrated the end of Gadhafi simply said they wanted to get back to their families, their old jobs or their studies.

By midday Friday, only a few dozen remained near Sirte. After morning prayers, they packed up and got ready to go home to Misrata -- a city torn apart by the Libyan war that, like the rest of the country, faces an arduous recovery ahead.