Daily Archives: October 31, 2012

One Thug Gone, One Too Many Remain: Libya

Hours after taking control of Bani Walid, a former stronghold of Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan militias from the rival city of Misrata fired ferociously at its empty public buildings.  Fighters yelling “Allahu akbar (God is greatest) and “Today Bani Walid is finished” sought to make their mark with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades on a town they say still provides a refuge to many of the overthrown Libyan leader’s followers.  The chaotic, vengeful scenes demonstrated the weakness of the new government’s authority over former rebel militias which owe it allegiance but essentially do what they like, Reuters reports…After days of shelling that sent thousands of families fleeing from the hilltop town in scenes reminiscent of last year’s war, militias aligned with the defence ministry, a grouping known as Libya Shield, seized Bani Walid on Wednesday (Oct. 24, 2012.)  he latest fighting, in which dozens of people were killed and hundreds wounded, erupted over a government demand that Bani Walid hand over those who had kidnapped and tortured Omar Shaaban, the former rebel fighter who had caught Gaddafi hiding in a drain in his hometown of Sirte last year.  Shaaban, from Misrata, a city that underwent a harsh siege by Gaddafi’s forces, died in a Paris hospital last month from injuries inflicted during two months of captivity in Bani Walid.   The United Nations had called for restraint as militias gathered menacingly around Bani Walid, whose residents had baulked at turning over the wanted men to unruly armed groups, while Libya’s justice system remains in disarray….Many people in Bani Walid belong to the powerful Warfala tribe, which was mostly loyal to Gaddafi.  The town and its now-displaced inhabitants, long isolated from the rest of Libya, fear retribution and wonder what fate awaits them in the post-Gaddafi era.

A disquieting example is offered by Sirte, whose residents feel neglected by Libya’s new rulers, saying they are paying the price for being the last bastion of Gaddafi, who was killed there on October 20, 2011. His death has yet to be investigated…

“Where is the international community?” Bani Walid tribal elder Mohammed al-Shetawi said by phone after leaving the town.  “Where is the United Nations and the European Union and the other people in the world, why have they forgotten us?”…

Excerpt, Capture of Libyan town smacks of revenge, not reconciliation, Reuters, Oct. 26, 2012