BENGHAZI (Reuters) - Supporters of toppled Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi staged a rare demonstration in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday, shouting “Muammar, Muammar”, but dispersed after opponents opened fire with guns and hurled rocks.
No-one appeared to have been hurt among dozens of supporters of Gaddafi, who was toppled in 2011 and killed, dictatorship then giving way to today’s chaos as two rival governments fight for power and Islamist militants build their influence.
The Gaddafi supporters waved pictures of the man who had ruled for 42 years, and demanded the release of his most prominent son Saif al-Islam, whom a Tripoli court sentenced to death in absentia last week for crimes during the uprising.
He has been held since 2011 by a former rebel group in Zintan, a region beyond Tripoli’s control. Right groups say the verdict was riddled with flaws.
“Only God, Muammar and Libya!” the crowd chanted and waved the green flags of the old regime.
They dispersed after other residents, some of them carrying the Libyan national flag, opened fire.
Residents said this was the first protest of Gaddafi loyalists in Libya’s second-largest city, the cradle of the revolution, since 2011.
Frustration has been building among Libyans with the country’s chaos as two governments fight for power with the help of former rebels who have fallen out along political, tribal and regional lines.
Benghazi has been especially hard hit as fighting between forces allied to the official government based in the east and Islamist groups has closed the port, choking off wheat, food and petrol imports.
The capital Tripoli is under control of a rival government after a faction seized it a year ago, and drove out the internationally recognized government to the east.
Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Ralph Boulton