(People select sheep, ahead of the Eid al-Adha feast, in the outskirts of Sirte November 5, 2011. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal(

Joy was tinged by past sadness, hope mingled with anxiety for the future as Libyans thronged their mosques at dawn Sunday to celebrate one of the great festivals of the Muslim year, Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice.

Nowhere was the emotion and religious symbolism more acute than in Misrata. The city suffered heavy losses resisting a siege by the army of Muammar Gaddafi. Local forces, which took credit for last month’s capture of the ousted strongman that ended in his death, are pushing for a big say in the new Libya.

Men streamed away from dawn prayers at the imposing mosque in Misrata’s Zorugh neighborhood, preparing to feast on sheep slaughtered in a ritual inspired by Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God.

They spoke of the special savour of a first Eid free of Gaddafi’s personal rule, of embracing a new democracy but also of sorrow for loved ones killed in the war.