UK Libyans 'dance in the streets' after Gaddafi's death

By Vanessa Barford and Robin Chrystal
BBC News

image captionLibyans in the UK are taking to the streets to celebrate

Libyans living in the UK say they are full of optimism for the future after the news that ex-leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has been killed.

"This the biggest, happiest news for Libyans - it's the end of a dictatorship and the end of war," says 45-year-old Abdelatif.

The former engineer, who left Libya six years ago and now runs a takeaway in Manchester, says the death of Col Gaddafi - who was toppled in August after 42 years in power - means "a huge amount" to Libyans all over the world.

"It means peace, it means the end of the dying of our kids and the blood will cease, it means we start re-building our country. I think there will be a very bright future for next generation," he says.

He also has another, much more personal, reason to be happy.

"My brother, the one that died a martyr, I think he will be more comfortable in his grave, he would think his soul didn't go for nothing - and the price he paid is valued by all Libyans," he says.

Abdelatif adds that his other two brothers, who were fighting on the front line in Sirte, are thankfully safe, and he hopes that some time soon he may be able to return to his hometown of Benghazi.

"It will take a bit of time to reorganise my life, but I hope to start again in Libya and help to rebuild my country again."

But the 45-year-old, who lives with his wife and three children in the St Helens area of the city, says today is a day for celebration.

He says about about 600 Libyans are gathering in the streets of Manchester - home to the UK's largest expatriate Libyan community - to "sing and dance".

"We will sing, we will dance, there will be fireworks and praying. Today's celebration is a kind of a mass," he says.

'Libyan history'

It is a sentiment shared by Sondes, 29, a mother and political activist from the city, and who is also planning to take to the streets.

"When Tripoli was liberated exactly two months ago, we all gathered on Wilmslow Road, there was a big party, with non-Libyans too, so we are doing it again.

image captionSondes says she hopes to return home to live in Libya

"People will be bringing drums, waving the new flag, singing the new national anthem, handing out chocolates and hugging each other.

"This is a date to mark in Libyan history, the 20th will probably be a national holiday," she says.

Sondes, who has always lived in Manchester but has family spread across Libya in Benghazi, Brega, Tripoli and Misrata, says she is "very happy" Gaddafi has been killed and "a post-Gaddafi Libya is going to be 100 times better than it was with him".

"I'm feeling very numb, I always knew this moment - when he was captured or killed - would come, but like many things in this revolution, the timing has been unexpected.

"I would have liked him to face trial, for the world to know everything he did, and for people to get justice, but I'm not going to dwell on that, I want to celebrate the fact that Libya can move on, that Libya can be brought back to life," she says.

Her father Mohammed, a critic of Col Gaddafi's regime, left Libya for the city 29 years ago because he feared for his life, and is now chairman of UK-based Libya Watch.

Sondes, who has a nine-month-old son, says she will go on a family trip to Libya in December, and hopes to return home for good some time soon.

"I believe Libyans are united, and will be united, we will come together and create for the better of society," she says.

image captionPeople have also gathered outside the Libyan embassy in London

The feeling of celebration and renewed hope was replicated on London's Edgware Road. Many Libyans in the capital said they intended to gather outside the Libyan embassy in Knightsbridge in the evening.

"It's a great day for every Libyan - finally, finally he has gone. I know lots of people who died at his hands. Now I can take my wife and baby daughter home for the first time," says Nadar Halab.

During the civil war Mr Halab took time off from studying for a PhD at Salford University to raise £150,000 from Libyan businessmen in Manchester for Libyans in his home town of Zuara.

On Thursday he travelled down to London to get a visa for his English wife Michelle and three-month-old daughter Lana.

"I was in the embassy when the news came through. It's ironic I was technically in Libya." he says.

Akrum Mshaya, a civil engineer, says he will not really believe Colonel Gaddafi is dead until he sees the video evidence.

"I'm 30, I've spent my whole life living under that murderer, I want to believe it but I need to be sure," he says.

But like many Libyans in Britain he is determined to change Libya's legacy.

"I want to go back, I will go back, we must forget the past and build a new future," he says.