A tale of two cities in Libya

Carnival atmosphere in Tripoli as Libyans celebrate freedom while civilians are urged to flee fighting in Bani Walid.

By REUTERS
September 14, 2011 13:04
2 minute read.
Libyan rebels celebrate.

Libyan rebels 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori)

The streets of Tripoli are buzzing with a carnival atmosphere, with throngs of people flocking to Martyr's Square, the focal point of Libya's new freedom.

Some of the capital's residents view this time as a moment of national history.

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"This is the first time we can see our freedom and it's important to see it," said one Tripoli resident. "We are very happy and for the first time we can express our feelings from our hearts without any pressure. I can look at my kids and see that they are happy, smiling all the time. Every day they say 'please take us to Martyr's Square'."

In a further sign of normality returning after six months of bloody civil war, checkpoints in Tripoli are starting to disappear.

Osama Abu Ras, a member of the Supreme Security Committee for Tripoli, says all armed groups in the capital will be regulated or dissolved.

"They are very welcome to become members of the police forces until we reach the new government. In that moment they will have a choice either to join the army, or to join the police forces, or to resign," he said.

It's a different story in Bani Walid, where forces loyal to ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi are resisting more strongly than expected.

Residents are fleeing the city, taking advantage of extra time offered by National Transitional Council fighters to leave before a full-scale assault.

"We ran away from the shooting. Just this morning while I was in the market I was shot at twice. My courtyard faces the rebels on one side and the market on the other. All the shooting is coming from the direction of the market," said Mubarak Awad, a resident fleeing Bani Walid.

Libya's new rulers are keen not to alienate the powerful Warfalla tribe, in their efforts to take control of one of Gaddafi's last strongholds.

Residents say many of its members fear retribution because of their traditional close links to Gaddafi's tribe.

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