Fledgling state takes shape in the east
Published 24/02/2011 | 05:00
A SEPARATE, free Libya is starting to take shape in the east of the country, where large sections of the army have defected to the rebels and the anti-government demonstrators have begun to form an independent government.
As Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces regrouped in Tripoli, 1,000 miles to the east, in Tobruk, the local army commander announced that he and his men were with anti-regime protesters.
A fledgling local government was holding its first meeting yesterday in the town of al-Bayda, west of Tobruk, and mob justice was starting to be replaced by the framework of a criminal system.
Mustafa Mohamed Abdel-Jalil, the newly appointed Justice Minister in the east, who recently defected from the Gaddafi government, was due to pass judgment on about 100 captured pro-Gaddafi troops, both Libyans and African mercenaries.
The Khamis Brigade, one of the regime's special forces units which had slaughtered civilians in the town days earlier, made its last stand at the local airport. Local youths had called for the men to be executed, but the new authorities said they would not face the death penalty.
The fact that at least some judicial system was taking hold spoke of increasing stability after days of vendettas and horrifying revenge meted out by infuriated crowds.
In Benghazi residents said calm had largely been restored after heavy bloodshed at the weekend, when pro-Gaddafi forces were reported to have burnt soldiers who refused to fire on protesters.
The crew of a Libyan air force jet baled out after refusing orders to bomb the rebel city and left their aircraft to crash in the desert, according to the Libyan newspaper 'Quryna'. In Tobruk, Major General Suleiman Mahmoud, the local army commander, told al-Jazeera that Col Gaddafi was "a tyrant" and that "the people in the army are steadfast" in the city. On the city streets, demonstrators held banners declaring "Free Libya".