London European leaders hailed it as a victory, Libyan exiles celebrated in the streets and the mother of one of Moammar Gadhafi’s many victims said she was treating herself to an expensive bottle of champagne.
But jubilation over the demise of Libya’s long-serving ruler is being tempered by concerns over the circumstances of his death — and lingering doubts about Libya’s future.
There were chants and tears of joy outside the Libyan Embassy in London, where one demonstrator stomped a sheet bearing the fallen leader’s image.
“I was crying, I was shouting, I was smiling,” said Najwa Creui, a 40-year-old teacher who has lived in Britain for the past 16 years. “It’s the day Libyans have been waiting for as long as I have been alive.”
But 37-year-old Amani Deghayes said that while she shared in the celebration, the anarchic bloodshed that followed the toppling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein left her fearing for “what happens next.”
“I hope there will be real democracy, not another crazy regime,” she said.
In Europe, leaders sounded an optimistic note.
“Finally the way is free for a political rebirth for peace,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday, pronouncing herself “relieved and very happy” at the news.
Britain and France, the powers that played a leading role in the military campaign that sealed Gadhafi’s fate, said they hoped that his death would open a new — and more democratic — chapter in Libya’s history.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Gadhafi’s death a milestone in the Libyan people’s battle “to free themselves from the dictatorial and violent regime that was imposed on them for more than 40 years,” a message echoed by British leader David Cameron and other NATO allies.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an ally and friend of Gadhafi, called his death deplorable.
“They murdered him,” Chavez was quoted as saying by the Caracas-based television network Telesur, calling it “one more attack on life.”
“We will remember (him) all our lives as a great fighter, a revolutionary and a martyr,” Chavez said during a visit to the Venezuelan town of La Grita, according to a statement from Telesur.