Libyans queue for first vote in battle-hit Misrata
MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - People from Libya's battle-scarred city of Misrata queued up to vote in their first free election Monday, hoping to set a standard for the rest of the country as it prepares for national polls in June after the war that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi.
Months after Misrata saw the biggest and bloodiest battle in Libya's eight-month conflict, voters waited outside polling stations set up in schools, many of the buildings still marked with bullet holes from the fighting.
Residents were picking the new 28 members of the Misrata local council, who will have the tough job of rebuilding a city of around 300,000 people which was bombed beyond recognition.
"For the first time in our life we feel we are human. We can choose what we want, it's a joy for all Libyan people, and God willing, it will get better and better," teacher Basma Fortey said, showing her left index finger dipped in ink for the vote.
Security was tight in the coastal city, with armed men, sometimes near trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, standing guard at the schools.
Banners reading "Just as you were present on the front line, be there for the election" were posted around the destroyed city. The small town of Zwara last year held local elections but Misrata's polls are the first in a major settlement, its residents say.