Libya's new rulers declare country liberated

NTC leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil: "I pray for the souls of the martyrs who were waiting for this day"

Libya's transitional government has declared national liberation before a jubilant crowd in Benghazi, where the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi began.

National Transitional Council (NTC) leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil urged Libyans to put civil conflict behind them for the sake of the country.

Gaddafi's capture and death on Thursday came as Nato-backed NTC forces pursued loyalists in his stronghold, Sirte.

The NTC has come under pressure to investigate how he died.

A post-mortem carried out on the former leader's body on Sunday showed he had received a bullet wound to the head, medical sources said.

The body itself, along with that of Gaddafi's son Mutassim, has been put on public display in a cold storage facility in Misrata.

Thousands of people were killed or injured after the violent repression of protests against Gaddafi's rule in February developed into a full-scale civil war.

His government was driven out of the capital, Tripoli, in August.

However he refused to surrender or leave the country, urging his followers to resist the country's new leaders.

'United brothers'

NTC deputy head Abdul Hafez Ghoga announced from the stage that Libya had been freed, declaring: "Declaration of Liberation. Raise your head high. You are a free Libyan."

Thousands of voices echoed him chanting, "You are a free Libyan."

Mr Abdul Jalil bowed down to thank God for victory before making his speech.

At the scene

There is a lot of joy at the big parade ground on the edge of Benghazi that they have renamed Victory Square.

The new Libya faces a lot of challenges. Hating Colonel Gaddafi has been a great unifier. Now he is dead, the differences within the broad coalition that overthrew him are going to be much more noticeable.

The transition to the promised democracy will not be easy. And some national reconciliation between former rebels and former supporters of the regime will be necessary. But Libya has oil money, as much foreign help as it needs and a sense that they own their revolution - even though they could not have done it without the help of Nato and Qatar.

The biggest challenge - building a new system of government from the bottom up - could become their biggest advantage. Unlike Tunisian and Egyptian revolutionaries, they do not have to worry about the survival of parts of the old regime. Here in Libya, it has been smashed.

He thanked all those who had taken part in the revolution - from rebel fighters to businessmen and journalists.

"Today we are one flesh, one national flesh. We have become united brothers as we have not been in the past," he said.

"I call on everyone for forgiveness, tolerance and reconciliation. We must get rid of hatred and envy from our souls. This is a necessary matter for the success of the revolution and the success of the future Libya."

Mr Abdul Jalil said the new Libya would take Islamic law as its foundation. Interest for bank loans would be capped, he said, and restrictions on the number of wives Libyan men could take would be lifted.

He wished anti-government protesters in Syria and Yemen "victory".

US President Barack Obama congratulated Libyans, saying: "After four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of deadly conflict, the Libyan people can now celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise."

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also welcomed the declaration of liberation, but added that Nato would retain its "capacity to respond to threats to civilians, if needed".

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague greeted Libya's "historic victory", and urged the country to avoid "retribution and reprisals".

Elections are due to be held by June of next year, Libya's acting Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril, said earlier.

The new elected body, he added, would draft a constitution to be put to a referendum and form an interim government pending a presidential election.

Death questions

The US, UN, major human rights groups and others have called for a transparent investigation into how Gaddafi died.

A child celebrates with a flag in Benghazi, 23 October

Video footage showed him being captured alive. Officials said he had been killed subsequently in a crossfire.

A post-mortem carried out on the former leader's body on Sunday showed he had received a bullet wound to the head, medical sources said.

The commander of the forces that captured Gaddafi has given details of the Libyan ex-leader's last moments to the BBC.

Omran al-Oweib said he had been dragged from a drainage pipe and had taken 10 steps before he collapsed amid gunfire between NTC forces and Gaddafi supporters.

"I didn't see who killed, which weapon killed Gaddafi," Mr Oweib said.

NEXT STEPS

  • Elections for a Public National Conference to be held within eight months
  • The new body is to appoint a prime minister, an interim government and a constituent authority which will draft a new constitution within 60 days
  • Constitution to be put to a referendum
  • If the constitution is approved, general elections will be held within six months

NTC spokesman Mustapha Goubrani said Gaddafi's body would be handed over to people from his tribe for burial.

Mr Jibril told the BBC's Hardtalk programme he would have preferred to have Gaddafi alive, to face prosecution for his crimes, and added that he would welcome a full inquiry into his death.

One of Gaddafi's best-known sons, Saif al-Islam, as well as his security chief both remain at large.

Another son who escaped to Niger, Saadi, was "shocked and outraged by the vicious brutality" shown towards his father and dead brother, his lawyer told Reuters.

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