With the country almost entirely under rebel control and the Eid al-Fitr holiday upon them, Libyans have a lot to celebrate.
Late Tuesday, thousands gathered in the capital to mark the end of Ramadan and the end of Moammar Gaddafi’s rule, many of them praying on their knees or crying out in joy in the newly named Martyrs’ Square.
“This is the best holiday of my life,” Adel Masmoudi, who was born the year Gaddafi seized power, told al-Jazeera.
The celebrations began with the firing of red tracer rounds as a substitute for fireworks. When an imam leading the dawn prayer mentioned “the tyrant Gaddafi,” the crowd jeered at the ousted leader’s name.
Rebel forces sent security to stand around the perimeter of the square and patrol the area, and set up snipers on rooftops to protect the gathering. Al-Jazeera reports that celebrations ended peacefully later in the morning.
Despite being just 24 years old, Amari Abdulla told Agence France-Presse: “This is the first time we have felt relaxed in 42 years. . . . We will celebrate [Eid al-Fitr] as in the past, but this time it is simply better. It is a new Libya.”
One Libyan tweeted:
Watch video of the celebrations here:
While rebel forces claim to have control of the country, Gaddafi loyalists have not surrendered in Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the rebel Transitional National Council, on Tuesday gave loyalist forces until Saturday to surrender or said they would face an all-out military assault. A Gaddafi spokesman has rejected the ultimatum.
At the same time, Gaddafi’s son al-Saadi is trying to negotiate the terms of his own surrender, according to the Associated Press.