Libya marks revolution day as leader issues warning

Libyans on Friday celebrated the first anniversary of the uprising against Muammar Qadhafi with fireworks and slogans, even as its new leader vowed to act firmly against further instability.

The former rebels who toppled Qadhafi last year with NATO backing set up fresh checkpoints in Tripoli, the capital, Benghazi, the eastern birthplace of the uprising, the western port city of Misrata and other towns.

Libya's new rulers have not organized any official celebrations at a national level as a mark of respect for the thousands of people killed in the bloody conflict that saw Qadhafi captured and slain on 20 October.

But spontaneous commemorations began nationwide in cities and towns led by residents of Benghazi, the city which first rose up against Qadhafi and his 42-year regime.

"We have called in special forces from outside of Benghazi. Soon the roads heading to the square will be closed to vehicles," Omar Farraj, in charge of security for the Tahrir (Liberation) Square celebration in Benghazi, told AFP.

"We want to ensure that the celebrations are peaceful, and we have deployed the revolutionaries across the city."

Hundreds of men, women and children gathered in Tahrir Square for Friday prayers, after which the anniversary celebrations will start.

"I'm here to celebrate freedom. The new Libya is different from the old Libya. The difference is like the difference between the sky and earth," 50-year-old former army colonel Idris Rashid told AFP.

"We were living before, but never knew the meaning of life. Today we can feel the breeze of freedom."

Men, women and children took to the streets of Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata and other towns late on Thursday ahead of the celebrations.

"I will fight with my body, heart and soul for our new Libya," said Mustafa Ahmed Ali, a young recruit of the new Libyan army.

"Curly we are sorry!" shouted children in sarcastic reference to Qadhafi, nicknamed because of his distinctive locks.

Benghazi residents will formally celebrate the anniversary later on Friday at a function expected to be attended by Libya's new ruler Mustafa Abdel Jalil, interim Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Qeeb and other dignitaries.

Abdel Jalil warned on Thursday that Libya's revolutionary spirit and stability will not be compromised.

"We opened our arms to all Libyans, whether they supported the revolution or not. But this tolerance does not mean we are incapable of dealing with the stability of our country," he said in a television address.

"We will be tough towards people who threaten our stability. The revolutionaries are ready to respond to any attack aimed at destabilizing" the country, Abdel Jalil said.

Tripoli resident Naima Misrati said traffic police and former rebels were distributing leaflets, warning people against thinking of carrying out attacks, which said: "We cannot bring back the buried man [Qadhafi] but we can send you to him."

But pro-Qadhafi group the Libyan Popular National Movement posted a statement on several websites saying the situation in Libya "is becoming worse every day."

"There's very little interest from the international media in the many horrors that have taken place. We are reorganizing ourselves outside Libya in an inclusive political movement that would encompass all Libyans who understand the terrible reality of Libya," it said.

One year after the uprising, Libya is battling challenges ranging from how to tame the rowdy militias that fought Qadhafi to establishing a new rule of law.

Thousands of people were killed or wounded in the conflict, the country's vital oil production ground to a halt, and homes, businesses, factories, schools and hospitals were devastated.

But the most immediate headache is how to control the tens of thousands of ex-rebels who have now turned into powerful militias, whose jealously guarded commitment to their honor and power occasionally erupts into deadly clashes.

Global human rights organizations Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders have accused militias of torturing their prisoners, most of whom are former pro-Qadhafi fighters.

Prime Minister Qeeb has acknowledged that integrating these militias into security services is a "complex" issue. But his government on Thursday said that about 5,000 of them had already been integrated.

World Bank adviser Hafed al-Ghwell in a recent report said there are concerns about the ruling National Transitional Council itself.

"The NTC has had to struggle with internal divisions, a credibility deficit and questions surrounding its effectiveness," he said.

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