Libya celebrates 2nd anniversary of anti-Gadhafi revolt
A Libyan military helicopter flies overhead at Tahrir Square during the celebration of the second anniversary of the revolution in Benghazi, Libya on Sunday, Feb, 17, 2013. (AP / Mohammad Hannon)
Maggie Michael, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, February 17, 2013 9:00AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 17, 2013 9:11AM EST
BENGHAZI, Libya -- Libya's leader called on Sunday for unity in the North African nation as it celebrates the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi but plunged the country into lawlessness and economic woes.
Addressing thousands of flag-waving Libyans, Mohammed el-Megarif urged his countrymen to "join ranks and resolve our differences to build our nation."
He also promised to fight poverty and "marginalization," and to give Libyans extra cash to mark the occasion. He did not say how much money he meant, or how it would be distributed.
El-Megarif spoke at a rally in Benghazi, the eastern Libyan city that was the birthplace of the anti-Gadhafi uprising in 2011.
Libya has been roiled by instability and violence since the ouster of the Gadhafi regime in late 2011. Benghazi has been among the worst-hit parts of the country, falling prey to armed militiamen and Muslim militants. El-Megarif alluded to the rise of radical Islam in the energy-rich nation, vowing that he would not allow Libya to become "an incubator of terrorism and violence."
In what appeared to be an attempt to assuage the militants, the Libyan leader promised that the nation's next constitution would explicitly declare Islam as the country's religion and that Islamic law, or Shariah, would be the main source of legislation.
He also vowed to push for laws that would "isolate" remnants of the old Gadhafi regime, another bid to appease militants who claim that members of the ousted regime remained in charge of many government departments as well as the security forces.
Sunday's celebration was held amid tight security precautions. Army vehicles blocked roads leading to the site and snipers deployed on nearby rooftops.
Underlining the depth of resentment in Benghazi toward the central government in the capital, Tripoli, several youths among the crowd interrupted el-Megarif's speech with hostile chants.