Moamer Kadhafi's body has been buried in secret after being displayed in public for four days, in an ignominious end for Libya's longtime ruler, as the new regime asked NATO to extend its mission.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, on a visit to Japan, said meanwhile that a future US military role in the new Libya will hinge on decisions by NATO, whose ambassadors were meeting Wednesday to make a formal decision on plans to end Libya air operations on October 31
And the United Nations urged Libya's new rulers to respect the rights of all detainees, amid raging controversy over the circumstances of the death of Kadhafi.
Meanwhile the last top figures of his ousted regime, Kadhafi's son Seif al-Islam and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi were poised to cross the border into Niger, a Tuareg official said.
Seif al-Islam was "near the Niger border, he hasn't entered Niger yet but he's close," a local official from the northern Niger Agadez region told AFP on condition of anonymity.
In June, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against Kadhafi, Seif and Senussi for "crimes against humanity" allegedly committed by troops under their command as they quelled the uprising against his regime.
A Misrata military council member said Kadhafi was buried overnight Monday in a religious ceremony, along with another of his sons, Mutassim, and former defence minister Abu Bakr Yunis Jaber.
The bodies had been put on display in a market freezer on the outskirts of Misrata, a city 215 kilometres (132 miles) east of Tripoli, with thousands of Libyans queuing up since Friday to view and photograph them.
In Benghazi, a senior official of the National Transitional Council said the burial "took some time" to organise due to a "disconnect between the local (Misrata) council and the NTC."
According to guards at the entrance to the market, a convoy of four or five military vehicles took the bodies away to an unknown location, being kept secret to avoid the site turning into a rallying point for Kadhafi supporters.
Three Muslim religious figures loyal to the ousted dictator prayed and performed a religious ceremony before the burial, the Misrata council member said.
The two sons of the former defence minister, brought straight from prison, and his father were present to witness the bodies being picked up from the market, the source said.
The burials come as the circumstances of Kadhafi's death after he was taken alive last Thursday during the fall of his hometown Sirte -- the last holdout after an eight-month armed revolt -- continue to fuel controversy.
A UN human rights team set up to investigate rights violations in Libya said the NTC and armed groups in Libya should ensure that all prisoners are treated in line with international norms.
"In particular, I call on all the armed forces to avoid any act of reprisal and arbitrary repression against both Libyans and foreigners," Philippe Kirsch, the head of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya, said in a statement.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
The commission also welcomed decisions by the new rulers to probe the deaths "of certain detainees" -- an apparent reference to Kadhafi.
Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said on Monday that a commission of inquiry will probe the strongman's killing.
Disquiet has grown internationally over how Kadhafi met his end after NTC fighters hauled him out of a culvert where he was hiding following NATO air strikes on the convoy in which he had been trying to flee his falling hometown.
Mobile phone videos show him still alive at that point.
Libya's interim premier Mahmud Jibril has said an autopsy report showed Kadhafi was killed in "crossfire from both sides."
US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Kadhafi's grisly death sent a message to dictators around the world that people long to be free.
He said on NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" that Kadhafi, someone who for 40 years "terrorized his country and supported terrorism," had been given ample opportunity to leave power and transition his nation towards democracy.
"He wouldn't do it and obviously, you never like to see anybody come to the kind of end that he did," Obama said, according to excerpts of the interview released by NBC.
"But I think it obviously sends a strong message around the world to dictators that people long to be free, and they need to respect the human rights and the universal aspirations of people."
On the political and military front, the NTC said it wants NATO to extend its mission in the north African country.
"I ask NATO to remain at least for another month," said interim oil and finance minister Ali Tarhuni, four days after the military alliance announced plans to end its seven-month mission on October 31.
The US defence secretary said all decisions concerning Libya should rest with NATO.
"About looking to the future, I think a lot of that at this point still rests with NATO," Panetta said. "The decision as to a future security involvement (should be) in the hands of NATO, (which) will give us a basis" to determine any future US role in Libya, he added.
Meanwhile a fuel tank exploded in Sirte late on Monday killing more than 100 people and wounding 50, NTC military commander Leith Mohammed said.
The accidental explosion, apparently caused by a spark from a nearby electricity generator, happened as a crowd of people waited near the fuel tank to fill up their cars.
An AFP correspondent said the tragedy took place near Sirte airport, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) south of the Mediterranean city, hometown and last bastion of Kadhafi.
The UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya, Georg Charpentier, was in Sirte on Tuesday ahead of missions to assess humanitarian aid for the city and for Bani Walid, another of the last pro-Kadhafi holdouts, his office said.
"Immediate priorities for response include the restoration of electricity and water services, rapid cleanup of explosive remnants of war, as well as the rehabilitation of housing for returning residents," he said.