Thousands amass in Libyan rebel capital

2011-03-11 13:23

Benghazi, Libya – Thousands of Libyans poured on to the streets of Benghazi today ahead of protests demanding that Muammar Gaddafi step down and calling for the victory of rebels fighting his regime.

Rebel-held Benghazi, Libya’s second city and a Mediterranean sea port, is the headquarters of an eastern uprising against the Libyan leader, and thousands gather to protest each Friday after the main weekly Muslim prayers.

“Many people have died in our struggle in Ras Lanuf and in Benghazi, but the youth has chosen to fight on rather than see this rule continue, and they will fight for the sake of God,” an imam proclaimed ahead of prayers.

“Victory is near,” he declared, as vast crowds descended on Benghazi’s seafront to pray together in the open air for the success of their revolution.

There was a carnival atmosphere as the centre filled up with thousands of people carrying flags, but pick-up trucks manned with heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns were parked on some street corners.

Rebel fighters have rushed reinforcements to Ras Lanuf to counter a major offensive that drove them back from the oil town in fierce fighting that killed at least 10 people west of Benghazi yesterday.

One Benghazi family buried their 21-year-old son, Fathi Ali Saad, today, taking his coffin, draped in a white shroud, to the cemetery.

His family said he was killed by a bombardment from a commandeered oil tanker crewed by mercenaries which they claimed Gaddafi forces have used off Ras Lanuf. His face was completely destroyed by the blast that killed him.

“My nephew did not die in vain. We still have to fight Gaddafi,” said his 52-year-old uncle, Khaled Mohammed Saad. “He was very courageous in the last few days, but all his friends want revenge, they want to bring Gaddafi down.”

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