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On liberation day, Libyans flock to see Qaddafi – for proof, closure

Libyans officially celebrated the liberation of the country from the rule of Muammar Qaddafi today, just days after he was killed after fleeing his hometown of Sirte.

By Gert Van LangendonckCorrespondent / October 23, 2011

Anti-Gaddafi fighters gesture to the crowds in front of a giant Kingdom of Libya flag during celebrations for the liberation of Libya in Quiche, Benghazi, Sunday. Libya's new rulers declared the country freed from Muammar Gaddafi's 42 years of one-man rule on Sunday, saying the "Pharaoh of the times" was now in history's garbage bin and a democratic future beckoned.

Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters

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Misrata, Libya

Widad El Weila came all the way from Libya's capital, Tripoli – a two-and-a-half-hour drive – with her teenage daughters to see the body of former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

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“We wanted to see it with our own eyes,” she says, “and we brought the kids to show them that there is nothing more to be afraid of.”

Ms. El Weila was one of only a few women standing in line in the dilapidated outdoor shopping mall on the outskirts of the coastal city of Misrata where Qaddafi's body – and that of his son Moatassim and his former defense minister Abu Bakr Younes – have been put on public display since they were killed Thursday.

“I told [the rebel fighters] to … make sure that everybody knows [Qaddafi] is dead,” interim Oil Minister Ali Tarhouni told the Reuters news agency.

The display – under flimsy blankets on a stone-cold floor in a commercial freezer – hasn't seemed to bother the hundreds of Libyan men lining up for a last glimpse at the man who ruled them for 42 years.

Nor has it seemed to bother the vast majority of Libyans who are celebrating the country's liberation, which was officially rung in today by the transitional government’s leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, at a euphoric rally in the eastern city of Benghazi.

"We have all waited for this moment," said Mr. Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), in front of the mass of flag-waving revelers. "This revolution began peacefully with the demand for justice, but it was met by excessive violence."

Will Qaddafi get a proper burial?

The NTC is reportedly preparing to bury Qaddafi in an undisclosed location to keep his grave from becoming a shrine to the dead leader’s supporters.

At least one person in Misrata has been waiting for a call from the NTC.

Sheikh Hesham Mohamed Embrika runs a cemetery on the beach just outside Misrata where the pro-Qadaffi dead are buried. Mr. Embrika considers it his religious duty to give even the enemy a proper Islamic burial.

“As soon as we heard that Qaddafi had been killed, we prepared a grave for him. We are ready to bury him here, but I think they will have to provide security. Feelings against Qaddafi run high in Misrata,” said Embrika.

Driving along devastated Tripoli Street, the former line, it is not hard to understand why.

Omar Kawa, a 23-year old former rebel, points to the long list of names of martyrs painted on a whitewashed wall. More than 1,000 people were killed during the six-months siege of Misrata – enough to name every street in the city after a martyr.

“Every family in Misrata has been affected by this,” says Mr. Kawa. “That means a dead boy, a destroyed house, a wrecked car in every family here.”

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