First anti-Gaddafi protesters march in revolt cradle

First anti-Gaddafi protesters march in revolt cradle

Hundreds of Libyans from the eastern city of Benghazi -- the cradle of revolt against Muammar Gaddafi -- held a symbolic torch-lit march to mark the anniversary of the first protest against the slain dictator.

The demonstrators, most of them related to victims of the notorious Abu Salim prison massacre in Tripoli, yesterday lit a tri-colour torch representing the colours of the new Libyan flag and marched through the main streets of Benghazi.

The groups were soon joined by dozes of other Benghazi residents in cars and other vehicles, as the procession drove through Libya's second city.

The participants in yesterday's march, some honking their car horns and shouting revolutionary slogans, said they were marking the first anniversary of the first protest held on the same day last year against the Gaddafi regime.

A small demonstration on February 15, 2011, also held by relatives of the 1996 Abu Salim massacre to secure the release of their lawyer, Fethi Tarbel, then turned into a massive anti-Kadhafi uprising from February 17.

Tarbel is now Libya's sports minister.

The bloody uprising rapidly spread across the north African country and ended with the killing of Gaddafi at his hometown in Sirte on October 20.

Thousands of people were killed and wounded in the raging conflict, with young and old men taking up arms to fight Gaddafi's forces.

The ouster and death of the former strongman has become one of the main events of the so-called Arab Spring.

Libyans consider February 17 as the actual day when the anti-Gaddafi uprising first erupted.

There are no state sponsored celebrations planned on Friday to mark the first anniversary of the conflict, but local councils are holding commemorations to mark the event.

"Today we feel that justice is done to all those who suffered in Abu Salim," said 60-year-old Fatima Abdallah, whose 26-year-old son Jumaa was one of more than 1,200 people killed in 1996.