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Gaddafi loses control of Benghazi, protesters revel

The eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of revolt against Muammar Gaddafi, was alive with celebration yesterday with thousands out on the streets condemning the Libyan leader.

The eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of revolt against Muammar Gaddafi, was alive with celebration yesterday with thousands out on the streets condemning the Libyan leader.

Jubilant rebels and supporters thronged the city center, waving red, green and black monarchy-era flags and giving out snacks and juice to passing cars, which honked their horns in a giant party. Some fired shots into the air in jubilation.

People danced, cheered and played loud music until late into the night. Crowds burst into song, with lyrics that said, “We will remain here despite the pain.”

“Since 1969 there has been pressure on everything — money, food. If you wanted to talk about freedom, they took you to prison,” Eisam Farag, 39-year-old microbiologist, said, referring to when Gaddafi seized power.

“Since Feb. 15, we have been able to breathe the first air of freedom. ... I haven’t been able to sleep for three nights. I haven’t been able to believe that this regime has gone.”

After a week of violence in which it threw off government control, the Mediterranean port of about 700,000 is starting to run itself under “people’s committees” as the dust of rebellion settles. In the east of Libya, many soldiers have withdrawn from active service.

 
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