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Libyan forces tear down Khadafy compound

A construction machine demolished the walls of Moammar Khadafy’s residence at the Bab al-Aziziyah complex in Tripoli yesterday. The Libyan government plans to put a park there. A construction machine demolished the walls of Moammar Khadafy’s residence at the Bab al-Aziziyah complex in Tripoli yesterday. The Libyan government plans to put a park there. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)
By Kim Gamel
Associated Press / October 17, 2011

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TRIPOLI, Libya - Libyan revolutionary forces bulldozed the green walls surrounding Moammar Khadafy’s main Tripoli compound yesterday, saying it was time to tear down the leading symbol of his tyranny.

The sprawling, fortress-like compound known as Bab al-Aziziya has long been hated by Libyans who feared to even walk nearby during Khadafy’s more than four decades in power, and its capture was seen as a turning point in the civil war as revolutionaries overran the capital in late August.

Ahmad Ghargory, commander of a revolutionary brigade, said the area will be turned into a public park accessible to all Libyans.

“It’s the revolutionary decision to tear down this symbol of tyranny,’’ Ghargory said. “We were busy with the war, but now we have the space to do this.’’

Already, the courtyard in front of Khadafy’s former house, which he used for many fiery speeches trying to rally supporters during the uprising, has been turned into a weekly pet market. Tripoli residents roam the premises as if at a museum, with vendors selling revolutionary flags and other souvenirs.

Libyans are eager to move on after decades of repression, even though fighting persists on two fronts and tensions between supporters of the former regime and revolutionary forces remain high - even in Tripoli. The continued instability has delayed efforts by the transitional leadership to move forward with efforts to hold elections and establish democracy.

The Bab al-Aziziya compound, surrounded by high walls lined with barbed wire, had been a mystery to most Libyans though it is one of the city’s largest landmarks. Many Tripoli residents said they wouldn’t go near it, fearing guards would get suspicious and arrest or shoot them.

“I cannot explain these feelings,’’ Farouk Alzeni, 25, said, standing against a backdrop of piles of rubble. “I have never touched this wall because of this place’s heavy security.’’

The compound was a main target for NATO airstrikes during the months leading to Khadafy’s ouster in late August.

Fighters forced their way into the area on Aug. 23 during the battle for the capital, jubilantly rampaging through the remnants of barracks, personal living quarters, and offices seen as the most defining symbol of Khadafy’s nearly 42-year rule.

“All the bad things that happened, happened inside these walls. And he kept his mercenaries and tortured people inside these walls,’’ said Tarek Saleh, a 25-year-old revolutionary. “Before we were never able to enter this site, and we’re tearing these walls down so we don’t have to remember those dark days.’’

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