By Maha Ellawati.
Benghazi, 30 September:
Benghazi was in celebratory mood yesterday as hundreds of citizens voluntarily began surrendering their weapons to the . . .[restrict]Army in Tahrir Square following recent unrest in the eastern city.
Chief of Staff Yusuf Mangoush had previously declared that weapon collections would be held in Benghazi and Tripoli on Saturday and Sunday and it is intended that the scheme will be rolled out in other cities shortly.
Those who came were young and old and officers from the National Army, together with civil society activists and members of the Benghazi Local Council were also in attendance.
? “We have been surprised at the amount of weapons handed-over by Benghazi residents”, said Ibrahim Rikhayis, spokesman for the Army’s Thunderbolt Special Forces brigade.
“RPGs, 14.5mm anti-aircraft guns, FN rifles, SPG-9s and general purpose bombs have all been surrendered. Tahrir Square is heavily guarded to ensure nobody can disrupt this historic day, which has been long awaited by many Libyan families”, he added.
Colonel Sulaiman Bozagya, also of the Thunderbolt brigade, estimated that well over a thousand weapons had been handed in by the middle of yesterday afternoon, and in excess of 10,000 rounds of ammunition.
Many of those who had chosen to surrender their arms expressed their happiness with the initiative, which they described as historic and necessary for the safety of the city, which has been plagued by violent unrest in recent months.
There were calls for all those who had not yet handed in their weapons to come to Tahrir Square and do so. The scheme runs from 8am to 10pm on Saturday and Sunday.
?Adding to the carnival atmosphere, which was mirrored in a parallel event in Tripoli, were numerous awards to be given in a prize draw entered into by all those participating in the scheme.
Two Hyundai cars were on offer, along with 20 laptops and 20 Sony televisions. The prizes will be awarded on the basis of who handed in the greatest number of weapons. [/restrict]