Tue, Oct 18, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Libyan rebels raze walls of Qaddafi’s compound

REAPPROPRIATE:An official said the infamous Bab al-Aziziya compound, which many Tripoli residents were afraid to even go near, will be made into a public park

AP, TRIPOLI

A Libyan National Transitional Council fighter sits atop the demolished walls of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Libyan revolutionary forces bulldozed the green walls surrounding former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s main Tripoli compound, saying it was time “to tear down this symbol of tyranny.”

The sprawling, fortress-like compound known as Bab al-Aziziya has long been hated by Libyans who feared to even walk nearby during Qaddafi’s more than four decades in power and its capture was seen as a turning point in the civil war as revolutionaries overran the capital in late August.

Ahmad Ghargory, commander of a revolutionary brigade, said on Sunday that the area will be turned into a public park accessible to all Libyans.

“It’s the revolutionary decision to tear down this symbol of tyranny,” Ghargory said. “We were busy with the war, but now we have the space to do this.”

Already, the courtyard in front of Qaddafi’s former house, which he used for many fiery speeches trying to rally supporters during the uprising, has been turned into a weekly pet market. Tripoli residents roam the premises as if at a museum, with vendors selling revolutionary flags and other souvenirs.

Libyans are eager to move on after decades of repression, even though fighting persists on two fronts and tensions between supporters of the former regime and revolutionary forces remain high — even in Tripoli. The continued instability has delayed efforts by the transitional leadership to move forward with efforts to hold elections and establish democracy.

The Bab al-Aziziya compound, surrounded by high walls lined with barbed wire, had been a mystery to most Libyans though it is one of the city’s largest landmarks. Many Tripoli residents said they would not go near it, fearing security guards on the compound’s high green walls would get suspicious and arrest or shoot them.

The compound was a main target for NATO airstrikes during the months leading to Qaddafi’s ouster in late August.

Fighters forced their way into the area on Aug. 23 during the battle for the capital, jubilantly rampaging through the remnants of barracks, personal living quarters and offices seen as the most defining symbol of Qaddafi’s nearly 42-year rule.

Qaddafi’s residence, now gutted and covered with graffiti, was also targeted in a US bombing raid in April 1986, after Washington held Libya responsible for a blast at a Berlin disco that killed two US servicemen. A sculpture of a clenched fist crushing a US fighter jet that had been erected after the strike has been removed.

Qaddafi entertained guests in a Bedouin-style tent pitched near two tennis courts about 200m from the family home.

Revolutionary forces have squeezed Qaddafi loyalists into one main district in his hometown of Sirte after weeks of fighting, but some said fears of friendly fire as well as a lack of coordination and communications were slowing their advance. Fighters from the eastern city of Benghazi and Misrata to the west were trying to reorganize themselves to solve that problem.

“We have them cornered in a 900 by 700m area, but the fighting is difficult because we are worried about firing on our own forces, they are mixed together,” Benghazi field commander Khaled al-Magrabi said on Sunday.

Commanders said they have agreed to divide the remaining loyalist area between them to prevent confusion.

Libyan fighters also faced discord over the looting of buildings, including the airport and houses in Sirte, on the coast 250m southeast of Tripoli. Trucks were seen carting off tractors, industrial generators and heavy machinery on the road from Sirte to nearby Misrata, which was under siege by Qaddafi forces for months and saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

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