Libya's provisional leaders have set Sunday as the official end of the revolution that toppled, and eventually killed, Moammar Gadhafi, with a ceremony planned for the rebel headquarters city of Benghazi and celebrations expected throughout the country.
There was a party atmosphere in several parts of Tripoli Saturday night, as people awaited the announcement of the formal end of the revolution. It has been a moment eight months in the making, since protesters started the uprising that ended 42 years of dictatorship.
At the Ras Ajdar border crossing with Tunisia, Libyans in flag bedecked cars packed with children flowed across, as exiled families returned to join the celebrations. The old red, green and black Libyan flag, adopted anew by the National Transitional Council, was everywhere.
The formal end of the revolution, after months of fierce fighting, is to mark the beginning of a process to hold elections, write a new constitution and form a new government.
The event will take place three days after Gadhafi was killed in questionable circumstances in or near his hometown, Sirte, as rebel forces were overrunning his supporters' last strongholds. There have been international calls for an investigation into the circumstances of the former leader's death.
He was apparently traveling in a convoy that was hit by a NATO airstrike. Rebel fighters say they found him hiding in a drain pipe after the attack. Cell phone videos show him injured but alive, but he was dead by the time he arrived at a local hospital, raising concerns that rebel fighters executed him, or possibly beat him to death either deliberately or accidentally.
His body was later put on display in a freezer at a butcher shop in Misrata, where opponents joyfully passed by and took pictures. Rebel supporters also set up an open-air display of broken statues and other artifacts in Misrata.
One of the organizers, Abdel Basset Al-Haddad said the exhibit demonstrates that the Gadhafi era of tyranny and one-party rule is over and Libyans can “start a new life.”
Gadhafi's mercurial and often brutal one-man control of Libya started with a coup in 1969, and only began to erode during the revolution, finally breaking down in August, when he fled his capital.
The NATO alliance, which conducted a seven-month bombing campaign to disable Gadhafi's forces and protect civilians, said its warplanes hit a convoy of what it called 11 armed vehicles near Sirte on Thursday, the day Gadhafi was killed. NATO says its planes flew again on Friday, apparently on reconnaissance missions, but did not carry out any bombing runs. Officials say the NATO mission will formally end on October 31.
The euphoria among rebels and their supporters at Gadhafi's death, and widespread relief that the fighting appears to be over, will be prevalent again on Sunday. But before long Libyans will have to get down to the difficult business of building a new society.
Some analysts believe Gadhafi's death makes it less likely that the country will face an insurgency. But others warn that the unity of the anti-Gadhafi forces may be in jeopardy now that their sworn enemy is gone.