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24.12.2020 Libya

Libyans mark independence day amid high security in Tripoli

By AFP
Libyan armed forces parade through the capital Tripoli to mark the country's 69th anniversary of independence.  By Mahmud TURKIA (AFP)
LISTEN DEC 24, 2020
Libyan armed forces parade through the capital Tripoli to mark the country's 69th anniversary of independence. By Mahmud TURKIA (AFP)

Libya on Thursday celebrated the 69th anniversary of its independence with military parades held in the centre of the capital Tripoli under tight security.

Hundreds of Libyans carrying the red, green and black national flag gathered at central Tripoli's Martyrs' Square -- formerly known as Green Square, where toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi often delivered speeches.

The head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, and members of his cabinet, all wearing masks due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, attended a midday parade of military and police forces.

The area was closed to traffic from Wednesday and police vehicles deployed around the square. A stage was set up for speeches and patriotic songs to be performed before a fireworks display after nightfall.

The celebration of Libyan independence on December 24, proclaimed by King Idriss in 1951, was removed from the official calendar for over 40 years under the Kadhafi regime.

The holiday was reinstated in 2012.

Kadhafi was overthrown and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

Wracked by violence since then, the North African country has become a battleground for tribal militias, jihadists and mercenaries and a major gateway for desperate migrants bound for Europe.

Two rival camps now vie for power, with an administration in the east backed by the forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar pitted against the United Nations-recognised GNA.

A ceasefire signed in October under the aegis of the UN, and generally respected, has allowed the rival parties to return to the negotiating table.

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