Libyans mark first year of ‘liberation’

Libyans mark first year of ‘liberation’

LIBYA - Agence France-Presse
Libyans mark first year of ‘liberation’

Cars cloaked with the national flag cruise the capital from the early morning to late night to celebrate the first anniversary of Libya’s liberation. AA photo

Libya has celebrated the first anniversary of its “liberation” from the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, even as fighting flared in a former bastion of the slain dictator.

On Oct. 23, 2011, just three days after Gadhafi was captured and killed in his hometown Sirte, the transitional authorities declared the country’s liberation, formally ceasing hostilities. The day was observed as a public holiday across Libya.

Cars cloaked with the national flag cruised the capital from the early morning, their speakers pumping out patriotic songs at full volume. People gathered at Martyrs Square after sundown with youths setting off fire crackers. In Benghazi, hundreds of people massed outside Tibesti Hotel to mark the one-year anniversary but also demand that the eastern city, cradle of the uprising that toppled the regime, become the “economic capital.”

Call from Megaryef

Fierce clashes in Bani Walid, one of the final bastions of the former regime and accused of harboring die-hard Gadhafi loyalists, have cast a pall over celebrations. De facto Libyan leader Mohammed Megaryef expressed confidence that the military operation in Bani Walid would finish “very soon.”
He expressed regret over the casualties of the fighting. In a speech broadcast by state television, Megaryef emphasized that the assault specifically targeted the “criminals who held the town and its residents hostage,” rather than Bani Walid as a whole.

He called for national reconciliation and the reactivation of the judiciary. Fighting in Bani Walid has fanned old tribal feuds and underscored the difficulties of achieving national reconciliation. Former rebel fighters are locked in battle with ex-Gadhafi loyalists. Bani Walid natives, angered by the government-sanctioned offensive against the heartland of the powerful Warfalla tribe, stormed the national assembly last weekend in protest.

Demonstrators also ransacked the offices of a private television station in Benghazi after it announced that Gadhafi’s son Khamis and the dictator’s spokesman Mussa Ibrahim had been captured there.