The seven-month Nato Libyan air campaign could end within days after the death of ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi who was shot in the head.
Nato chiefs will meet in Brussels later to consider halting the campaign after one of its airstrikes injured the tyrant by hitting the convoy in which he was travelling.
There were conflicting reports about what happened next. Footage showed a bloodied Gaddafi being grabbed by rebel fighters who according to some accounts fatally shot him. However, acting prime minister Mahmoud Jibril claimed the former ruler had been killed in crossfire after he had been captured alive and was being driven away.
He told reporters: "When the car was moving it was caught in crossfire between the revolutionaries and Gaddafi forces in which he was hit by a bullet in the head."
A doctor present during Gaddafi's final moments said he died from two bullet wounds, one to the head and the other to the chest. Graphic pictures of the ruthless dictator's battered corpse were shown across the world as Libyans celebrated the end of his rule.
With the fall of Bani Walid and Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown where he was hunted down on Thursday, the last major pockets of resistance to the new National Transitional Council appeared to have been overcome. Military commanders are expected to recommend to Nato that the mission should be wound up. It has cost British taxpayers an estimated £300 million.
US president Barack Obama announced that the mission would "soon come to an end", although Foreign Secretary William Hague struck a more cautious note.
"We will want to be sure that there are no remaining pockets of pro-Gaddafi fighters who can again become a threat to the civilian population," he said. "It looks like with the fall of Sirte and indeed of Bani Walid, that the main pockets have now been dealt with. So I think it brings much closer the end of the military operations, but I just sound a note of caution because we will want to be sure that the situation really now is dramatically more peaceful than it's been."
Britain has played a prominent role in the Nato-led international military effort to protect Libyan civilians under the terms of a UN resolution passed in March, following the outbreak of the uprising against Gaddafi the month before.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the dictator's death was a moment to remember his many victims, including those who died when Pan-Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie in 1988, Wpc Yvonne Fletcher, who was gunned down outside the Libyan embassy in 1984, and those killed by the IRA using Semtex explosives supplied by Gaddafi.