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Omar Mukhtar University

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After days of media blackout and unconfirmed reports of a bloody, but successful, uprising against Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, David Degner’s photographs provide a view of the aftermath of fighting in Baida, eastern Libya.

All photographs taken Feb. 23, 2011, by David Degner for The Wall Street Journal

In Baida, as in many cities in Libya’s east, flags flew from the era before Gadhafi Wednesday. The days-long fight for Baida began in the first days of anti-Gadhafi protests last week.

Wednesday, a day after the last forces loyal to Col. Gadhafi in eastern Libya were defeated, Baida’s elders met in the town’s assembly hall to begin rebuilding.

Police, witnesses say, initially clashed with protesters in Baida using tear gas and other non-lethal methods. When protests swelled, Col. Gadhafi’s government ordered in reinforcements. Here, anti-Gadhafi protesters demonstrated outside city hall Wednesday.

Local police turned on the soldiers after the soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians. The government forces retreated to Al Abrak Airport, outside of town. Townsmen followed and laid siege to the airport. Here, the remains of a battle are scattered in the terminal.

Baida’s airport, the site of some of the fiercest fighting of the uprising in eastern Libya. For four days, rebels battled forces loyal to Col. Gadhafi and commanded by one of his sons.

Spent bullet casings litter the ground at Al Abrak airport in eastern Libya.

After days of firefights, feints and an ambush on unarmed local sheiks, the regime forces surrendered their hold on the vital local airport Tuesday morning.

Evidence of previous days’ fighting at Al Abrak airport.

Ad hoc local forces—who, like citizens across eastern Libya, became heavily armed as entire army units joined forces with locals and police stations were abandoned—fought off government troops.

Witnesses say locals countered the government helicopters with anti-aircraft machine guns and Kalashnikovs.

Here, civilians displayed the guns and ammunition that they claim to have taken from mercenary soldiers in a fight.

A key challenge facing elders in Baida now is how to rein in the revolutionary zeal of the region’s youth, who are charged with emotion after several days of violent battle culminating in an historic victory.

Wednesday, Masouda al-Alamy, a distinguished professor of animal science at the city’s Omar Mukhtar University, called the meeting of elders to order. “Today, we meet and can speak freely for the first time,” she said. Here, Sheikh Mohamad Darnawi, right, spoke.

Local notables, including tribal sheikhs, university professors and prominent businessmen, met in a domed town meeting hall ringed with green plush seats.

The top items on the agenda at Wednesday’s meeting included forming committees to take charge of security, food and fuel distribution, reopening schools, and collecting weapons pillaged during the protests.

Recently resigned Minister of Justice Mustapha Mohammed Abdul Jalil was given a position of prominence on the dais at Wednesday’s meeting.

Prisoners, who say they are Libyans from Sabah, Tripoli, and Fazan were captured in fighting against anti-Gadhafi forces.

These captured pro-Gadhafi fighters told the photographer they were from Chad, seeming to confirm previous reports that Col. Gadhafi has employed foreign fighters to swell the ranks of his army and put down the uprising against his rule.

A young doctor in Baida hospital shares images he recorded on his cell phone of the dead and wounded from the previous days’ fighting. According to the head of the hospital 63 people died during the uprising and hundreds were wounded, overwhelming this 100 bed regional hospital.

Wounded Libyans recover in Baida hospital.

A view looking out across eastern Libya.

All photographs by David Degner for The Wall Street Journal

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