Gunfire echoed across Libya’s main cities Thursday as crowds poured into the streets to celebrate the death of Muammar Gaddafi, ruler of the North African nation for 42 years.
Initially, fighters in camouflage garb flashed victory signs, fired their weapons into the air and danced as news spread that Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte had fallen. The celebrations, televised by international broadcasters, reached a crescendo with the announcement that Gaddafi had died. Men toted their children on their shoulders as groups of civilians formed swirling circles to dance.
“This is the happiest moment of my life,” said Ibrahim Suleiman, a 22-year-old driver in the city of Benghazi. “When I heard the news on television, I didn’t believe it; I ran off to the streets and I started jumping up and down.”
In Sirte, cries of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great,” rang out. In Tripoli, once Gaddafi’s seat of power, children and ululating women took to the streets to celebrate alongside men. Some held photos of dead loved ones.
In scenes similar to those that played out in Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February, Libyans — waving the tri-color flags that have becomes a symbol of their revolution — chanted: “Raise your head up high; you’re a free Libyan.” Others yelled: “The blood of martyrs will not go in vain.”
What’s next for Libya?
The death of Muammar Gaddafi will be regarded as a victory for the Libyan people, NATO and democracy. But euphoria at the demise of a dictator should not disguise the problems faced by the new Libyan government in cementing peace, rebuilding and implementing good governance in the north African nation, analysts said.
Analysts stressed the National Transitional Council, which led resistance to Gaddafi, had won the war but would need to act quickly and decisively to take advantage of the peace.
Tribal differences, disputes between militia leaders and the expected involvement of exile groups would complicate the task.
“The real battle begins now to rein in the [rebels] and integrate them under the legal umbrella of the state in one of its various bureaucracies, army or police,” said Larbi Sadiki, expert on North African politics at Exeter University.
Obama warns other leaders
President Barack Obama hailed Muammar Gaddafi’s death as a warning to authoritarian leaders across the Middle East that iron-fisted rule “inevitably comes to an end” and as vindication for his cautious U.S. strategy on Libya. reuters
So who pulled the trigger?
The exact circum-stances of Gaddafi’s demise are still unclear.
In a video filmed by a bystander, Gaddafi is shown being dragged off a truck and pulled to the ground by his hair. “Keep him alive,” someone shouts. Gunshots then ring out. The camera veers off.
But Libya’s ruling body said Gaddafi was killed when a gunfight broke out after his capture between supporters and rebels. It said no order had been given to kill him.
Thousands are still missing
Dead bodies are being found regularly in mass graves, hospitals and other sites in Libya, including on roadsides, the International Committee of the Red Cross said. The agency said that thousands of families were waiting to find out what had happened to missing loved ones.