In town seen as pro-Qaddafi, settling of scores shifts into standoff with government
While Bani Walid is suspected of harboring Qaddafi loyalists, residents complain they are unfairly targeted. But Khamis Qaddafi, thought to have died last year, is now thought to have died in fighting there today.
A year to the day after Muammar Qaddafi was killed, a town long tarred as sympathetic to him is under attack by government-aligned militias in what many Libyans describe as settling unfinished business.
Libya’s government wants the town of Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli, to hand over suspects accused of kidnapping a militiaman from the city of Misurata credited with having helped run Qaddafi down last year. In recent days a tense standoff has turned violent.
For many in Bani Walid, the affair confirms their longstanding complaints of persecution in post-Qaddafi Libya. For the country’s new leaders, it is yet another test of their ability to assert their authority while managing the militias upon whom Tripoli relies to help keep order.
“The campaign to liberate the country has not been fully completed,” said Mohamed Magarief, president of Libya’s congress, speaking late yesterday on Libyan TV and quoted by Reuters. He said delays in integrating militias into state security forces have led to a degree of “chaos” in Libya.
“And the chaos has lured others to kidnappings, stealing, and to create non-legitimate prisons,” Mr. Magarief said. “What has happened in Bani Walid in the last few days falls under this…. it has become a safe haven for a large number of those who are outside of the law.”