Chaos looms over former pro-Gadhafi stronghold

Chaos looms over former pro-Gadhafi stronghold

Moammar Gadhafi loyalists seized control of a Libyan mountain city, Bani Walid, in the most serious challenge to the central government since the strongman’s fall, underlining the increasing weakness of Libya’s new rulers as they try to unify the country under their authority. However, confusion reigned as to who was behind the unrest. Libya said it will strike back if diehards of Gadhafi were behind deadly clashes in his former bastion of Bani Walid.

Five people were killed and several wounded Jan. 23 when fighting erupted in the city, which local officials said began with an attack by supporters of Gadhafi against a base of former rebels. Those claims were strongly denied by Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelali late Jan. 23, while an AFP correspondent who visited the town the same day said it was unclear who controlled it.

‘Libya ready to strike back’

On Jan. 24, Abdelali said the reasons for the violence still remained unclear, but added that Libyan forces were ready to strike back if the unrest was indeed triggered by Gadhafi’s men in Bani Walid, a town 170 kilometers southeast of Tripoli.

Abdelali said he was still waiting for more information to “assess what really happened and find solutions to the crisis,” adding that some reports spoke of a tribal conflict in the town while others blamed Gadhafi loyalists. Mubarak al-Fatmani, the head of Bani Walid local council, said hundreds of well-equipped and highly trained remnants of Gadhafi’s forces battled for eight hours Jan. 23 with the local pro-NTC revolutionary brigade, and then Gadhafi loyalists raised their old green flag over buildings in Bani Walid, the Associated Press reported.