Gadhafi’s ghost haunts Libya
TRIPOLI, BANI WALID
A girl fleeing the unrest in Bani Walid with her family looks on as an anti-Gadhafi fighter flashing a victory sign is reflected in a car window on the outskirts of Bani Walid in this September 2011 photo. REUTERS photoForces loyal to Libya’s late leader Moammar Gadhafi have launched a series of attacks across several cities, killing seven fighters who helped topple the former regime, officials and residents have said.
The Jan. 23 violence comes as Libya’s new leaders struggle to stamp out lingering resistance from pro-Gadhafi forces and try to unify a deeply fractured country after eight months of civil war and more than 40 years of authoritarian rule. The attacks were spread out and took place in the western city of Bani Walid, the capital Tripoli and the eastern port city of Benghazi, where the uprising against Gadhafi started nearly a year ago.
Violence first broke out in Bani Walid, where pro-Gadhafi fighters have long troubled Libya’s revolutionaries. Mahmoud al-Warfali, a spokesman for the revolutionary brigade in Bani Walid, said at least four of his fighters were killed in the city, which was one of the last strongholds of the former regime to fall to the revolutionary forces. He said up to 150 pro-Gadhafi fighters were engaged in the street battle, using rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s. He said they had managed to raise the green Libyan flag of Gadhafi’s regime at the northern gate of the town.
“Gadhafi remnants tried to take over the city,” al-Warfali said. “They tried to do this before by taking over the interim government’s office, but thank God we were able to fight them off.” Hours later, three fighters were killed late Jan. 23 by pro-Gadhafi forces in Benghazi, field commander Abdel-Basit Haroun said.
Minister rejects claims
Later in the day, a Libyan minister denied local officials’ claims that the attack on the former Gadhafi stronghold, Bani Walid, was carried out by his loyalists. Fawzi Abdelali told Libyan television that the fighting was among the people of Bani Walid and linked to “the issue of compensation for those affected by last year’s war.”
“The information we have from inside the city does not indicate there are green flags [on town buildings], and there is nothing in relation to the former regime,” Abdelali said.
The attacks are the latest breakdown in security, three months after Gadhafi’s capture and killing. Protests have surged in recent weeks, with people demanding that the interim National Transitional Council (NTC) leaders deliver on promises of transparency and compensation for those injured in the civil war. The new government’s promises to deliver justice for those killed in the uprising has been usurped in some areas by revolutionary fighters taking retribution on their own.
The uprising in Bani Walid could not have come at a worse time for the NTC. In the past week its chief had his office overrun by protesters angry at the slow pace of reform, whilst its second most senior official has quit, citing what he described as an “atmosphere of hatred.” NTC Chairman Abdul Jalil has warned that the protests could drag the country into a “bottomless pit.”
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.