Libyans are celebrating the first anniversary of the revolution that led to the overthrow of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year rule.
Following Muslim prayers Friday, hundreds of flag-waving demonstrators gathered in the main square in the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the opposition movement. Security officials are on high alert in Benghazi, and roadblocks have been set up in several cities to prevent any disruptions.
Celebrations have also been reported in the capital, Tripoli, and in other towns throughout the country.
Spontaneous celebrations began late Thursday.
Libya's new rulers have not organized official celebrations at a national level as a sign of respect for the thousands of people who died or were injured in the conflict.
In a statement, the White House congratulated Libya on the first anniversary of its “historic revolution,” saying the Libyan people “defeated a brutal regime and won their freedom.”
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also issued a statement urging Libyans to stand together in a spirit of reconciliation as the country transitions to a democratic government. Mr. Ban said, “A revolution in the name of human rights must not be tarnished by abuses but must bring about justice through rule of law.”
The anniversary comes amid mixed emotions about the current state of the country as it prepares for its first free election.
Many Libyans have expressed a sense of satisfaction and optimism with the gains achieved since the revolution. However, former government minister Ali Al Tarhoni said there was still work to be done.
“Yes of course. The revolution has met one of its important demands — which is liberating the country and toppling the autocratic regime, but now we are passing through another stage to rebuild the country. It is a stage that faces major challenges, we meet the kind of challenges that are different than we overcame in the last stage. My question is, are we able to overcome these challenges to build the democratic and Islamic country? I'm so optimistic because I think we have the abilities to do so.”
Transitional forces launched the uprising last February and drove Gadhafi out of Tripoli in August. He was killed last October as opposition forces overran his hometown of Sirte.