Soldiers and police on patrol for Libya’s soccer return

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About 300 soldiers and police were on patrol as Libya drew 0-0 with Democratic Republic of Congo in a World Cup qualifier on Friday, their first home soccer international for more than two years.

Fans waved the national tricolor flag and set off fireworks at the Tripoli Stadium following the lifting of a home-match ban imposed by world soccer’s ruling body FIFA.

Several soldiers sat on pick-up trucks that had anti-aircraft guns.

A few dozen security personnel also looked on and some of them encouraged the 30,000 crowd, which included Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, to cheer on the Libyan team.

“We didn’t win but today is an important game for us,” said one fan. “International football is back in Libya.”

A celebratory mood filled the stadium long before kickoff in the capital, with parachutists landing on the pitch and parades from a marching band and boy scouts.

One giant flag was painted with the words ‘Libya free’ and the Feb. 17 date of the start of the 2011 war that ousted leader Muammar Qaddafi.

In April, FIFA gave Libya the green light to host games again despite the fact that security remains precarious in the North African country.

Libya is still awash with weapons left over from the fighting and armed militias often take the law into their own hands.

The soccer team previously played home World Cup and African Nations Cup qualifiers in Mali, Egypt and Tunisia.

Libya are level at the top of Group I on six points with Cameroon who play their game in hand against Togo on Sunday.

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