Benghazi is Libya’s second-largest city and, as the seat of the rebels’ interim government, serves as the de facto rebel capital. The uprising began here on Feb. 15, with protests over the arrest of a human rights lawyer.
The city has long been a cradle of government opposition. There has been tension between Benghazi residents and Qaddafi since he moved the country’s capital from the east to Tripoli in 1969, and for years many of his greatest opponents have hailed from Benghazi. It is also home to the notorious Abu Salim prison, where more than 1,000 inmates were killed in a brutally suppressed uprising in 1996.
Formerly the country’s economic center and a beneficiary of King Idris, Qaddafi’s predecessor, Benghazi has suffered economically since Qaddafi moved the capital to the west.