Libya leaders declare liberation

Updated: 2011-10-24 06:59


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Huge crowd gathers in Benghazi to mark end of Gadhafi era

BENGHAZI, Libya - Libya declared the liberation of the nation on Sunday after 42 years of rule by Muammar Gadhafi came to an end with his capture and death last week.

"We declare to the whole world that we have liberated our beloved country, with its cities, villages, hill-tops, mountains, deserts and skies," said an official who opened the ceremony in Benghazi, the place where the uprising erupted in February and which has been the headquarters for the National Transitional Council (NTC).

Libya leaders declare liberation

Libyan children sit on a tank in a street where many weapons are displayed in Misrata on Sunday. Libya's new leaders declared liberation in the wake of Muammar Gadhafi's death, paving the way for the formation of an interim government followed by elections. [Philippe Desmazes / Agence France-Presse]

"No doubt we are at a decisive moment in our beloved Libya's history," lawyer Abdel Rahman el-Qeesy said, who announced the creation of a new government portfolio to deal with victims and families of the martyrs of the uprising.

"Libya is the persevering fighter which has made a liar of the tyrant Muammar Gadhafi, the contemptible man who has become a corpse under the feet of our heroes who revolted on Feb 17 and said to the tyrant no," he said in an impassioned address.

"We are the Libyans. We have shown you who we are, Gadhafi, you Pharaoh of the times. You have fallen into the garbage bin of history," Qeesy added.

Crowds listening to Libyan music and waving the tri-color flag cheered. Omar Hariri, one of the officers who took part in Gadhafi's 1969 coup but was later jailed, was appointed head of the military. He was one of the interim government's senior military commanders during the revolt.

"We do not differentiate between the civilian revolutionaries and the national army. The blood of both has mixed here on this battle ground," Hariri said as military helicopters hovered over the celebration.

Hariri promised that Libya's army would side with the people.

"It will completely side with the people, its doctrine will be protecting the nation, protecting democracy and will not be an aide to a tyrant," he said.

Salah el Ghazal, another official who addressed the tens of thousands of people gathered for the celebrations, paid tributes to all those who died, and referred to the "humiliating" death of Gadhafi.

Dozens of officials and tribal leaders gathered under a white canopy, speaking from a podium to the crowd who broke into frequent "God is great" chant.

Ghazal said that the North African country was blessed with Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the NTC.

"God has blessed us with the Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who deserves to be the man of the hour," said Ghazal, a local official of the NTC.

"This is the humiliating end that God wanted to set as example for anyone who practices the worst forms of injustice ... against their people," he added.

Gadhafi, who vowed to fight to the end, was found hiding in a drain after fleeing Sirte, the last bastion of his loyalists. He died in chaotic circumstances after video footage showed him bloodied and struggling at the hands of his captors.