- (Reuters/Ismail Zitouny)
Libya’s transitional government has declared liberation before tens of thousands celebrating in Benghazi; the birth place of the movement that eventually toppled ex-Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi.
Leader of the National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdul Jalil said to the massive crowd: “I pray for the souls of the martyrs who were waiting for this day.”
Freedom Square was packed to capacity as tens of thousands joined in the carnival atmosphere to hear the official declaration of liberation by the NTC.
The announcement comes just days following the capture and killing of Gaddafi on Thursday; a death that the United Nations and other international voices have urged to be investigated further.
An official post-mortem confirmed that Gaddafi had received a bullet wound to the head, and numerous videos showing Gaddafi being dragged along and beaten, whilst bleeding profusely have caused debate and some condemnation as to how the dictator was not brought to trial.
Videos have also shown Gaddafi’s bruised and bloated body laying on a bloodied mattress in a disused commercial freezer in Misrata. His body has been placed next to his son Mutassim, who was also killed Thursday.
Thousands of Libyans have been queuing up to see the body of their former leader; perhaps to receive some closure on an oppressive and brutal era that he brought about to so many.
Many of those queuing up have not known a Libya without Gaddafi in command, and Sunday’s official liberation marks a landmark time for a new exciting, and maybe uncertain era to begin.
The fall of Gaddafi comes following an uprising in February, which the dictator had tried to quash by killing thousands who were speaking out against his rule. The confrontations resulted in a full-out civil war between those loyal to Gaddafi, and a quickly increasing movement of “rebels.”
French, British and American military provided the spine of a NATO-led mission to provide support for rebels as Gaddafi’s forces attempted to wipe them out completely. However, after continuous advances and retreats across Libya, Gaddafi’s government was finally driven out of Tripoli in August, and into hiding.
Gaddafi did emerge in footage to call on those loyal to him to take back the country and to endlessly resist the country’s new government.
Gaddafi was finally found on Thursday as NATO planes stopped a massive convey of more than 100 cars fleeing Sirte as rebels overran the city. Gaddafi was reportedly dragged out of a large storm sewer, and quickly surrounded by dozens of ecstatic rebel fighters, who had quickly realized whom they had caught.
However, what happened in the moments between Gaddafi’s capture and his death are still being disputed. But even though internationally many are focusing on the details of how the dictator’s untimely demise came about, within Libya the mood is more celebratory simply of the fact that the oppressor is finally gone.
NTC deputy head Abdel Hafiz Ghoga announced Sunday to jubilant crowds that Libya was officially free, stating: “Declaration of Liberation. Raise your head high. You are a free Libyan.”
As people cheered and waved flags, the crowds quickly began a chant: “You are a free Libyan.”
NTC leader Abdul Jalil thanked those that had participated in the bloody revolution, and said that the new Libya would be a nation with Islamic law as its foundation. He said, “Today we are one flesh, one national flesh. We have become united brothers as we have not been in the past.”
He added: "I call on everyone for forgiveness, tolerance and reconciliation. We must get rid of hatred and envy from our souls. This is a necessary matter for the success of the revolution and the success of the future Libya.”
Abdul Jalil also stated his hope that anti-government protesters in Syria and Yemen would also soon taste "victory."
Elections will be held by June 2012, Libya's acting Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril, said earlier in the day. He added that the newly-elected body would draft a constitution, which would then be put to an official referendum.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Chief, congratulated Libya on its liberation. He urged the country to now create “a new inclusive Libya based on reconciliation and full respect for human rights and the rule of law.”