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A year after revolt, Libyans still insecure

Friday, February 17, 2012
(Reuters) - The flags were out on Martyrs Square in Tripoli as crowds across Libya gave voice on Friday to joy at being free of Muammar Gaddafi, the anniversary of their revolt offering brief respite from fears that it has brought them only chaotic paralysis.

In Benghazi, cradle of last year's "February 17 Revolution," and in Tripoli, Gaddafi's capital which fell to a motley array of Western-backed rebels six months later, armed police ringed central squares, braced for the kind of sporadic gunplay which has soured the peace that followed Gaddafi's killing on October 20.

It was a sign of some progress in dampening the public exuberance of the rival bands of militia fighters who roam the streets of Tripoli that it was honking car horns rather than the occasional burst of celebratory fire which provided the main audible backdrop to public and private festivities on Friday.

But as it struggles to prepare a free election in June while hundreds of armed groups of varying local, tribal or religious affiliation jockey for a slice of the oil-rich desert state, the interim government has disappointed Libyans and raised doubts it can even hold the sprawling country of six million together.

For the day, however, it was time to party, even if the government decided to hold back from official festivities.

"Despite the problems that remain in the country, this is an amazing day and we want to celebrate," said Sarah, a 22-year-old engineering student out with friends in central Tripoli.

"Just look at what was achieved in this past year."

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