Tue, Oct 25, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Libyans struggle to bury Qaddafi and start afresh

AFP and Reuters, BENGHAZI and MISRATA, LIBYA

Libyans look at helicopters flying above them during celebrations of the country’s official “liberation” in Benghazi, Libya, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Libya’s new leaders yesterday began the tough task of forging an interim government uniting the nation’s disparate political forces after 42 years of former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi’s iron-fisted rule, promising a system of Shariah law.

“Today, we begin preparing for a new phase ... the phase after the liberation, the phase that we will plan and work hard for the future of Libya,” said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC).

“Let us start work on the adoption of the constitution,” he said late on Sunday as he declared Libya’s “liberation” from Qaddafi’s rule at a colorful ceremony attended by tens of thousands in the eastern city of Benghazi, where the uprising against the despot was launched eight months ago.

The long-awaited declaration came amid raging controversy over the circumstances of Qaddafi’s death after he was taken alive during the fall of his hometown Sirte on Thursday. Britain said the incident had “stained” the NTC.

“Declaration of liberation. Raise your head high. You are a free Libyan,” Ghoga told the jubilant crowd.

Tens of thousands of voices echoed him chanting, “You are a free Libyan.”

Under the NTC’s roadmap, an interim government is to be formed within a month and elections for a constituent assembly to draft a new basic law held within eight months — the first democratic vote since Qaddafi came to power in a coup in 1969.

Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held within a year after that — or within 20 months of Sunday’s declaration.

NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil insisted that Shariah law would prevail in liberated Libya.

“As an Islamic country, we adopted Shariah as the principal law,” Abdel Jalil told the swarming crowds in Benghazi.

Abdel Jalil thanked NATO and regional allies for their roles in toppling Qaddafi 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.

Abdel Jalil earlier told al-Jazeera that an investigation was being conducted into the circumstances of Qaddafi’s killing after several foreign governments and human rights watchdogs posed questions.

Disquiet has grown internationally over how Qaddafi 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.

Libyan interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said in Jordan that the autopsy report showed that Qaddafi was killed in “crossfire from both sides.”

However, Othman el-Zentani, who examined Qaddafi’s body, said later only that he 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.

Qaddafi’s body has been stored in a vegetable market freezer in Misrata, drawing large crowds wanting to view and take pictures of the remains of the despot who ruled Libya with an iron fist.

On Sunday, there was a carnival atmosphere with twin attractions of celebrations marking the declaration of “liberation” in the main square coupled with the ghoulish spectacle of people lining up to view the bodies of Qaddafi, his son and army chief.

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