Bani Walid is located 170 kilometres south-west of Tripoli. It was one of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s last strongholds before it fell into the hands of NTC forces.
At least four people were killed in Monday’s clashes. According to the first AFP reports on the situation, the militiamen were attacked by armed men carrying “pro-Gaddafi” banners and green flags (the colour of the national flag under Gaddafi). A few hours later, Libya’s interior minister said this account was false, and that the attack had absolutely not been led by supporters of the former dictator.
On Wednesday, Defence Minister Osama Juili said Gaddafi's former stronghold was once again under government control.
“Members of the militia often arrest people arbitrarily”
“This is not the return of Gaddafi’s supporters. This is about a clash between Bani Walid residents and the May 28 brigade – an armed militia of former rebels that still have not given up their arms.
“Members of the militia often arrests people arbitrarily”
Members of this militia kidnapped a resident on Sunday without any explanation. And this is not the first time this has happened. They often arrest people arbitrarily, when only the police have the authority to do that. The kidnapped man’s family and leading figures of the city gave them until Monday morning to free him. The militia refused, so they went to confront these former rebels and demanded they release their hostage. That’s when the clashes broke out. The fighting lasted for several hours.
[Editor’s note: In this video, a member of the May 28 brigade confirms the disappearance of a Bani Walid resident. He also confirms residents came to ask the brigade to free him. However, he says his brigade had not detained this man, and that the attacks were the work of Gaddafi supporters who used this incident as a pretext to try to reclaim power.]
The idea that these clashes were led by Gaddafi supporters came from the Regional Transitional Council, which is the local branch of the National Transitional Council (NTC). This committee, however, has no legitimacy in the eyes of Bani Walid residents. [Since December, the National Transitional Council and its regional counterparts have met with the opposition in several Libyan cities.] The only way the regional branch of the NTC can hang on to power is by frightening people with Gaddafi’s spectre and by letting weapons circulate on the streets.”
A military official denies the existence of Gaddafi supporters in Bani Walid