Libya ‘liberated’ 3 days after Gadhafi killed
BENGHAZI – Libya’s new leaders on Sunday declared the country “liberated”, three days after ousted despot Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed, paving the way for the formation of an interim government.
The long-awaited declaration came amid raging controversy over the circumstances of Gadhafi’s death after he was taken alive during the fall of his hometown Sirte. Britain said the incident had “stained” the National Transitional Council (NTC).
“Declaration of Liberation. Raise your head high. You are a free Libyan,” NTC vice chairman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga told a massive rally in the eastern city of Benghazi, where the uprising against Gadhafi was launched eight months ago.
Tens of thousands of voices echoed him chanting, “You are a free Libyan.”
UN leader Ban Ki-moon called the formal declaration a “historical juncture” after decades of dictatorship and stressed UN support for the NTC’s moves to form an interim government and hold elections.
US President Barack Obama hailed the liberation as a “new era of promise” and urged a “national reconciliation process,” while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the revolution was the “work of ordinary, brave Libyans.”
Ghoga called for the militias which fought to oust Gadhafi to pull together.
“Let us commit to build a national army which will be the only legitimate institution of the country allowed to use arms to defend possible outside attacks and the borders of the country,” he said.
Benghazi’s Kish Square was awash with the green, red and black flags of the revolution that toppled Gadhafi, while the formal declaration raised a deafening roar that reverberated across the Mediterranean city.
Helicopters showered the crowds with sweets.
Interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, in his address, stressed that Islamic sharia law would be the main source of the north African nation’s legislation.
Abdel Jalil thanked NATO and regional allies for their roles in toppling Gadhafi, and paid special tribute to all those who lost their lives in the battle for Libya’s freedom.
“I call on everyone to remove hatred from their hearts… it is essential to build Libya,” he added.
The rally was attended by the ambassadors of France and the United States, while several countries such as Britain, Egypt, Sweden and Tunisia were also represented by diplomats. A UN representative was likewise present.
Abdel Rahman al-Kabisi, minister of martyrs and the wounded, told the gathering that the event marked “a great historic moment in beloved Libya’s history.”
“Oh pharaoh of the century (Gadhafi), you are now in the bin of history… in a stroke of fate … you have been thrown into the bin of history. Go to hell,” he thundered.
Interim prime minister Mahmud Jibril said the formation of a new government was expected to take “from a week to a month.”
“There are consultations to form a new government and this process would take approximately from one week to one month. It might take longer and or less,” he told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.
“Then there will be real hard work to minimise the period to have elections to elect our national congress, which would be the new parliament instead of the NTC which is going to be dissolved.”
Under the NTC’s roadmap, an interim government is to be formed within one month of the liberation declaration, followed within eight months by elections for a constitutional assembly — the first democratic vote in Libya since Gadhafi seized power in a coup 42 years ago.
Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held within a year after that.
Fighters were still firing rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and anti-aircraft weapons several hours after the liberation announcement despite a ban announced on state television and an appeal by Abdel Jalil.
Interim leader Abdel Jalil earlier told Al-Jazeera that an investigation was being conducted into the circumstances of Gadhafi’s killing after several foreign governments and human rights watchdogs posed questions.
“We are dealing with the subject with transparency,” Abdel Jalil said.
Disquiet has grown internationally over how Gadhafi met his end after NTC fighters hauled him out of a culvert where he was hiding following NATO air strikes on the convoy in which he had been trying to flee his falling hometown.
Mobile phone videos show him still alive at that point.
Subsequent footage shows a now-bloodied but walking Gadhafi being hustled through a frenzied crowd, before he disappears in the crush and the crackle of gunfire can be heard.
NTC leaders are adamant he was shot in the head when he was caught “in crossfire” between his supporters and new regime fighters soon after his capture.
Jibril said in Jordan that he had no reason to doubt the report of the coroner who on Sunday carried out an autopsy on Gadhafi’s body.
“The coroner says in the medical report that he (Gadhafi) has been already wounded, taken out, put in that truck, and on the way to the field hospital there was cross-fire from both sides.”
But Doctor Othman el-Zentani, who examined Gadhafi’s body, said later only that the dictator had been “killed by bullets” adding: “My autopsy report is not finished.”
Zentani said he could not give more details as he had to “wait for the green light from my superior,” prosecutor-general Abdelaziz al-Ahsadi.
Jibril added he did not know “whether the bullet that hit him in the head came from his own security brigades or from the revolutionaries.”
“They took samples of his DNA, blood, hair, face hair … every sample that was required,” he said.
Gadhafi’s body has been stored in a vegetable market freezer in the eastern city of Misrata, drawing large crowds wanting to view and take pictures of the remains of the despot who ruled Libya with an iron fist.
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