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Slow to turn on Qaddafi, Bani Walid now struggles in a post-revolution Libya

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“They were once a brave daring set of men, who defied the government of Tripoli,” he wrote, describing Warfalla support for the Ottoman pasha’s son against his father. 

In 1993, Warfalla officers in the Libyan army attempted to stage a coup against Qaddafi. Several were executed. Today locals in Bani Walid voice bitterness toward fellow Libyans they say abandoned them.

When revolt erupted in February 2011, Bani Walid’s response was mixed. Faouzi joined an anti-Qaddafi protest that was assailed by regime supporters.

“I was on one side and my brother on the other,” says Faouzi. “And we threw stones.”

But days later, while visiting Tripoli, he says he saw police arresting people with bags of pills as Qaddafi accused rebels of taking drugs. He quickly joined a militia led by Qaddafi’s son, Saadi.

Outside Benghazi, he was shocked to see the column of regime forces hit by an airstrike. It was enough to convince him to quit the militia on the spot and return home.

In Bani Walid, a local rebel militia brawled with locals in May 2011, killing several before leaving town, says Meftah Jabarra, a law professor and member of a committee of elders and prominent citizens in Bani Walid. 

After Qaddafi’s regime collapsed in last August, rebel militias encircled Bani Walid and NATO pummeled it with air strikes amid reports that the ousted leader's son, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, was hiding there. 

As Mr. Jabarra sees it, “NATO opened the door for the revolutionaries rather than sticking to their mandate and protecting civilians.”

At least once, he says, civilians were killed. Five members of the Jfara family died when bombs destroyed their two houses in August 2011. NATO said strikes in Bani Walid that day targeted command centers and an ammunition store.

Once again, Faouzi took up arms – this time, he says, simply to defend his home.

“I used a Kalashnikov, RPG’s, a 14.5 mm machine-gun – anything,” he says. “I don’t know if I actually hit anyone.”

A problematic reputation

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