TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libyans on Wednesday wept over the graves of those killed in their six-month war against Moammar Gadhafi, then celebrated their newfound freedom with morning prayers and joyous chants in the capital's main square -- bittersweet rituals marking the start of a major Muslim holiday.
Men in their holiday finest -- white robes and gold-striped vests -- knelt in neat prayer rows in Martyrs' Square, the plaza formerly known as Green Square, where Gadhafi supporters massed nightly during the uprising.
Women in black robes ululated, rebel fighters fired guns in the air and people burst into spontaneous chants of "Hold your head high, Libya is free!"
In one corner, five rebel fighters formed a reception line, like at a wedding, and civilians walked up to them, shaking their hands in gratitude. In another area of the square, people crowded around a thick metal pole decorated with political cartoons, one depicting Gadhafi as a pig and another as a monster on a psychiatrist's couch.
Adel Taghdi, 47, choked back tears as watched the festivities. Having spent long years in Canada, he said he had felt no sense of belonging when he saw Gadhafi's green flag. Now, he said, he is proud of Libyans and his country.
"I never felt that way before," said Taghdi, who owns a tile shop in the capital. "We just want to live free."
Wednesday marked the start of the three-day holiday of Eid el-Fitr, which caps the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The start of the holiday is determined by the sighting of a new moon, and several countries in the Arab world started marking the holiday on Tuesday. Morning visits to cemeteries are part of the Eid el-Fitr tradition across the region.
At Tripoli's Bin-Shir cemetery, dozens of concrete graves had been poured for those killed in the uprising against Gadhafi, particularly the bloody week of battles for control of Tripoli that began when rebel fighters entered Aug. 20.
Many of the cement grave covers were unmarked, while a few had names scribbled on them. One of those buried there, Mustafa Usta, was killed by sniper fire in his neighborhood of Souk al-Jumma last week, said his brother, Adnan, 61.
Adnan Usta, a civil servant in the Libyan foreign ministry, said he only learned of his brother's death five days after he was shot, and that his brother was buried in before the family was informed. Despite the personal pain, Usta said he is looking toward the future.
"We are free now," he said. "We will build a democratic country."