First Published: 2011-09-22

 

Chaos grips Libya’s NTC fighters at Bani Walid

 

Fighers loyal to new regime constantly cite lack of coordination between their different units, absence of unified command to direct battle in desert.

 

Middle East Online

By Mohamad Ali Harissi - BANI WALID (Libya)

Disorganised

His comrades dive into the sand as the gun of a Libyan revolutionary sprays bullets around them, seemingly friendly fire gone mad. Nearby, a shell -- one of their own -- explodes, killing another comrade.

On the battlefront of Bani Walid it is chaos, not the loyalists of Moamer Gathafi, which is the killer among troops of the new Libyan regime.

Nearly a week after launching their attack on the vast oasis bastion of the ousted leader, the forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC) have only inched forward -- often then to pull back again -- and to daily curse the losses among their men.

Amid the grumbling, the troops constantly cite a lack of coordination between their different units and the absence of a unified command to direct this battle in the desert, some 170 kilometres (105 miles) southeast of the capital, Tripoli.

Some disgruntled fighters even suggest "treason" by those comrades who come originally from Bani Walid, saying they hesitate to throw themselves into the offensive fearing for their families still in the town.

"In the next few days, we will have a better organisation," says Commander Yussef al-Droubi, based some 30 kilometres (nearly 20 miles) away from the front.

That front line flexes as the battle rages, advancing but then falling back as the attacking forces meet fierce resistance and are unable to consolidate positions taken inside the town.

"We are working to set up a better coordination system which enables us to act like a regular (army) at war," added the commander.

It is not hard to find evidence of chaos and disorganisation. One pro-NTC fighter, for whatever reason, was firing in the air near his comrades when he "lost control" of his weapon which continued firing on its own in all directions.

At the same time, four other fighters were packed around a stack of rockets in a vehicle being driven nearby when one exploded, killing one of them.

Confusion, criticism and protests fuel a debate in which some voices can be heard calling for "more experienced and more competent" commanders to direct the offensive.

"Coordination is the only thing we lack," commented one man in front of his fellow fighters near a field hospital, some 30 kilometres from the front, set up to care for the wounded and look after the dead.

For journalists, the quest for information is also a challenge and evidence of the chaos. Local leaders announced a news conference to be held for Tuesday to give details of the military operations. It was put off until Wednesday. Finally it was cancelled.

In the same way, an announcement that an "Operations Centre" was to be set up to manage the offensive, led to nothing.

The disorganisation helped pro-Gathafi forces on Wednesday to target an NTC position some 15 kilometres (10 miles) from town, hitting it with four Grad rockets and sending fighters fleeing in confusion.

Some troops in anger accuse journalists, more and more of whom are leaving the area, of giving directions to the Gathafi forces.

Despite the problems, one local NTC official, Abdallah Kenshil, announced that a "decisive battle" supported by tanks would take place in the next 48 hours.

But again, nothing is certain.

Commander Droubi contradicts him. "We need time to prepare the attack well and to better study the topography of the town and we are going to take our time."

That confusion appeared echoed minutes earlier when an ambulance and a civilian vehicle collided just outside the field hospital.

 

US criticizes 1915 massacres in Armenia

Iran, major powers were set to review adherence to nuclear deal

Yemen’s ‘march for bread’ protestors end week-long march

Netanyahu threatens to cancel talks with German FM over NGO meetings

LafargeHolcim CEO stepping down over Syria probe

Khamenei urges Iran candidates to focus on home

UN chief urges donors to prevent Yemen famine

Turkish warplanes pound Kurdish forces in Iraq, Syria

Jailed British-Iranian sees final appeal rejected in Tehran

Iran election may be pointer to race for supreme leader

US-backed forces enter key IS-held Syria town Tabqa

Israel probe clears officer who shot teen attackers

Syria ‘ready’ to halt fire for chemical attack probe

Israel charges teenager for bomb threats against Jewish institutions

Egypt sentences 20 to death over 2013 police killings

Erdogan accuses researcher of 'inciting assassination'

Qatar Airways CEO accuses US carriers of ‘bullying’

At least 15 migrants drown near Lesbos

Former employees work to salvage Mosul University

Jordan wary about jihadists wishing to return home

US fires opening shots in confrontation with Iran

Mattis sees Saudi Arabia ‘helping across the region’

Sirens, silence as Israel remembers Holocaust

Houthis intensify crackdown on dissent in Yemen

Italian reporter released in Turkey

Algiers summons Morocco envoy over Syrian migrant row

Macron, Le Pen gird for final French election duel

Iran reverses decision to ban live presidential debates

Six Israelis including two soldiers held for anti-Arab attacks

Economists, rights advocates concerned over Egypt’s state of emergency

US Defense Secretary Mattis visits strategic Djibouti

Qatari hunters ecstatic at release from Iraqi kidnappers

Prosecutor says charities colluding with migrant traffickers

France votes under heavy security

Iran's historically unpredictable elections

Israel kills three in attack on pro-regime Syria camp

Iran's Ahmadinejad won't endorse other candidates

Rocky days ahead after Turkey referendum

Huge Shiite crowd throngs Baghdad shrine

Rabat accuses Algiers of expelling 55 migrants across border

Morocco, US take part in joint military exercise

US defence secretary visits key ally Qatar

Lebanese activists ramp up campaign against rape law

Saudis among kidnapped hunters freed in Iraq

Trial in Tunisia beach massacre set to begin April 26