Gaddafi's death prompts wild celebrations in Tripoli

As reports of Col Muammar Gaddafi's death spread thousands of people took to the streets across Libya

Tripoli broke out in manic celebrations as news of Col Muammar Gaddafi's death circulated.

It appeared as unconfirmed reports at first, but, as the hours went by and pictures appeared of a bloody-faced Col Gaddafi, Libyans were convinced.

The pictures still have not been independently verified.

Residents swarmed the streets of the capital, waving flags and cheering from the windows of their cars.

Streets across Tripoli have been gridlocked for hours.

People and fighters manning checkpoints shouted out "God is Great", as some distributed mints and biscuits - later dubbed "revolutionary treats" - to passing cars.

The colonel governed Libya for 42 years, and his shadow - so long as he was alive - was expected to further his rule.

There is an overwhelming sense of relief over the capital and the country at large following the news of his death.

By any measure this is a historic day.

His diehard supporters are unlikely to raise their voices. Many believe they will "wake up and smell the roses", as one Libyan put it.

The country's transitional leader, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, is expected to make a public address on Friday.

In it he will announce that the country has been "liberated", which in reality only means that the real work - with all the enormous challenges ahead - has just begun.

Regional brigades

World leaders and the UN secretary general have already called on Libyans to pull together.

Libyans celebrate at Martyrs square in Tripoli, 20 October United in celebration but will the NTC be able to unify rebel forces under a single command?

There are fears by observers, and some on the ground here, that uniting those who fought on the front lines for many months with those who remained loyal to Col Gaddafi until the dying days of his regime will be difficult.

It will be. But many here believe it is a task made easier by the colonel's death. His supporters, whatever remains of them, no longer have anyone to fight for.

This is the least of Libya's worries for now. Authorities are expected to form a transitional government by naming a new cabinet within a month.

Restructuring a country many Libyans and observers have long seen as socially, politically and economically plundered under Col Gaddafi's rule is no easy task.

There are those hoping that the transition will be trouble-free and smooth but the reality is that Libya is entering a critical stage now.

Members of the transitional government have already expresses concern.

One big challenge will be to unify the various regional brigades that formed during the war.

They may have all been loyal to the transitional authorities as they fought for a common goal but some wield a lot of power and unifying them under a single command - as the NTC has unsuccessfully tried in the past month - may prove to be more difficult than imagined.

There are many who will be wondering "what next?" for Libya as it embarks on a new era unobtainable for almost half a century.

But for many Libyans tonight, it is a time to rejoice.

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