Libyan militia lay siege to former Gaddafi stronghold Bani Walid

Screen grab of a video posted on YouTube by former-rebel forces from the northern Libyan city Misrata. 
 
Deadly violence erupted earlier this week in northwestern Libya’s Bani Walid, once a stronghold of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, after Misrata-based militia allied to the country’s military clashed with armed groups from the town. Our Observer in Bani Walid describes how the fighting has wreaked havoc on the lives of its residents.
 
Violence in the area had been escalating over the past few weeks, however, Wednesday, October 17 saw a marked escalation in the unrest. Eleven people were killed and several others wounded in Bani Walid, after militia groups laid siege to it. The hill-top town had long-been suspected of being a hotbed of Gaddafi supporters.
 
The fighting comes after the kidnapping and death of Omran Ben Shaaban, one of the men credited with capturing Gaddafi on October 20, 2011. Many blamed Shaaban’s abduction on pro-Gaddafi factions.
 
In this deeply divided area, the fighting is not only being waged on the ground, but also on the Internet. In a show of strength, both sides of the fighting have taken to posting videos online showing off their firepower and numbers.
 
Video posted by Misrata-based militia:
 
A line of pickup truck transporting armed forces from Misrata. The video was posted on YouTube Thursday, October 18, but the date it was filmed is unknown.
  
Video by armed forces in Bani Walid:
 
Fighters from Bani Walid show off a pickup truck mounted with a rocket-launcher, which they claim was abandoned by ex-rebel forces from Misrata during a retreat. Video posted on YouTube Wednesday, October 17.
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“People in Bani Walid have taken up arms because they don’t see the militia as a legitimate force”

Walid Ouerfalli lives in Bani Walid. Ouerfalli was interviewed by Muhammed Jaballa, who is part of a project called Libyablog, which strives to bring together Libya's blogging community. Libyablog is coordinated by FRANCE 24's Observers and RFI media workshop, with European Union support.
 
Up until recently, the militia forces only occasionally bombarded the outskirts of Bani Walid. But the rocket fire intensified two days ago [on Wednesday, October 17] after they seized control of the four major points of entry into the town. The shelling has actually now started to hit Bani Walid itself. I heard about a young girl who was around 16 years old who died after she was hit by shrapnel. Some families have fled, but the majority of people in Bani Walid would rather stay.
 
We haven’t had any petrol for several days now and food has begun to run low. It’s the same with medical supplies. People who need to take medicine regularly to treat conditions like diabetes have suffered the most since the attacks began. 
 
“We’re still waiting for the authorities to actually put the agreement in place”
 
A delegation of tribal leaders from different regions came to Bani Walid [on October 13] to meet with the local heads over how to end the fighting. The town eventually agreed to bring people wanted by the authorities to justice and to allow the Libyan army in to ensure security [Hussein al-Habbouni, head of Libya’s reconciliation committee, confirmed that tribal leaders and Bani Walid authorities held talks mediated by representatives from the General National Congress, which ended with an agreement on the terms of a ceasefire and prisoner exchange].
 
Regardless, the fighting has continued and we’re still waiting to see the agreement put into place. A lot of young people have decided to take up arms against the militia because they don’t see them as a legitimate force. It’s mostly made up of former rebels from Misrata, who place a lot of importance on regional and tribal issues.
 
People in Bani Walid just want a peaceful solution to this conflict and for the bloodshed to end.
 
 
 
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