Libya saw mostly peaceful celebrations in its two principal cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, as citizens began a three-day commemoration of the start of the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Qaddafi.
In Tripoli flags and streamers fluttered from walls, lampposts and cars, and thousands of police and militiamen backed by armed pick-up trucks formed checkpoints on most major traffic junctions. A large flag-waving crowd including many families with children gathered in the afternoon in the capital’s Martyrs’ Square.
“The mood is great,” said student Hassan Morajea. “Every car has two or three flags in the windows, everyone wants to celebrate,” he said in a telephone interview.
The run-up to the celebrations had been overshadowed by concern that violence may break out, as it frequently has since Qaddafi’s overthrow and death. In September, an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi left Ambassador Chris Stevens dead. Authorities are struggling to bring militias under control, repair a dilapidated infrastructure and assuage regional grievances including demands for autonomy in the east and south.
A bomb exploded outside a police station late yesterday in Benghazi, causing no injuries, said Bilal Bettamer, a prominent human rights activist, in a telephone interview. He said local media reported the bomb was the work of criminals, not political agitators.
“In Benghazi there are celebrations, huge celebrations actually,” he said.
Bettamar is helping organize a protest later today in Benghazi against what he said is a lack of government action against militants. He said he was determined the march to the city’s Freedom Square would be peaceful.
Still, Benghazi aviation student Mohammed el-Gadari said many people were staying off the streets, fearing violence. “Parents told their kids not to go out, there are militia checkpoints all over the city, each militia is guarding its own zone,” he said.
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