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(Updates with Yemen celebrations in ninth paragraph.)
Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Gunfire echoed across Libya’s main cities today as crowds poured into the streets to celebrate the capture and death of Muammar Qaddafi, who ruled 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 Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte had fallen. The celebrations, televised by international broadcasters, reached a crescendo with the announcement that Qaddafi 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 eastern 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 Qaddafi’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.”
Qaddafi has been in hiding for most of the eight months of fighting that erupted in February, issuing defiant statements that he preferred to die a martyr. After he lost control of Tripoli in August, his loyalists massed in Sirte.
“Tell Muammar and his children, that Libya is the land of men,” jubilant fighters chanted. One gun-toting man wearing a black cowboy hat clutched a guitar as his comrades swarmed around him.
Ali el-Amari, a 23-year-old supermarket worker in Benghazi, said Qaddafi’s end heralds “a new start for a new Libya.”
Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of the capital Sana’a to celebrate Qaddafi’s death and call for the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule.
“Hey, Ali after Qaddafi,” the protesters chanted in the so-called Change Square camp, outside Sana’a University. The demonstators broke out in dance and followed the developments in Libya on televisions.
“The end of Qaddafi has given us a strong boost that regardless of how much time our revolt will take, we will win and the fate of Saleh will be like that of Qaddafi,” Maher al- Haidari, a protester, said in an interview.
--With assistance from Mohammed Hatem in Dubai. Editor: Karl Maier, Andrew J. Barden, Andrew Atkinson
To contact the reporters on this story: Mariam Fam in Cairo at email@example.com; Ola Galal in Benghazi, Libya, at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com