First Published: 2012-10-23

 

Bani Walid violence overshadows Libya first 'liberation' anniversary

 

Fierce clashes in Bani Walid, one of final bastions of former regime, cast pall over celebrations in Libya.

 

Middle East Online

By Dominique Soguel – TRIPOLI

Scenes evocative of war that toppled Gathafi

Libya on Tuesday celebrates the first anniversary of its "liberation" from the regime of Moamer Gathafi, even as fighting flared in a former bastion of the slain leader.

On October 23, 2011, just three days after Gathafi was captured and killed in his hometown Sirte, the transitional authorities declared the country's liberation, formally ceasing hostilities.

The new leaders did not announce any specific programme to mark the anniversary, which is a public holiday, but rallies were expected in Tripoli and Benghazi, the cradle of the revolt that toppled Gathafi.

Cars cloaked with the national flag circulated from the early morning in the capital, their speakers pumping out patriotic songs at full volume. Security checkpoints set up overnight along the main arteries slowed them down.

Fierce clashes in Bani Walid, one of the final bastions of the former regime which is accused of harbouring die-hard Gathafi loyalists, have cast a pall over celebrations.

"Since the formal declaration of the end of hostilities, Libya has become a country beset by intercommunal strife," said Claudia Gazzini, senior Libya analyst for the International Crisis Group.

"The central authorities have acted chiefly as bystanders, in effect subcontracting security to largely autonomous armed groups only nominally under the authority of the state," she said.

Fighting in Bani Walid has fanned old tribal feuds and underscored the difficulties of achieving national reconciliation with former rebel fighters locked in battle against ex-Gathafi loyalists.

Bani Walid natives, angered by the government-sanctioned offensive against the heartland of the powerful Warfalla tribe, stormed the national assembly on Saturday in protest.

Demonstrators also ransacked the offices of a private television station in Benghazi after it announced that Gathafi's son Khamis and the dictator's spokesman Mussa Ibrahim had been captured there.

The authorities never presented evidence to back these claims.

Bani Walid natives charge these reports were fuelling attacks on their town.

Last week's scaled-up offensive against Bani Walid came in response to the death of Omran Shaaban, 22, a former rebel from the city of Misrata who was credited with capturing Gathafi.

Shaaban spent weeks held hostage in Bani Walid, where he was shot and allegedly tortured, before the authorities managed to broker his release.

He later died of injuries sustained during the ordeal, stoking tensions between his hometown Misrata and Bani Walid, long-time rivals who fought in opposite camps of the 2011 conflict.

It also galvanised the authorities to take action against the ex-regime bastion.

Clashes between pro-government forces and Bani Walid fighters over the past week killed dozens of people and wounded hundreds, in scenes evocative of the civil war that toppled Gathafi one year ago.

To justify the offensive, Mohammed Megaryef, president of the national assembly said that the oasis had become "a sanctuary for a large number of outlaws and anti-revolutionaries and mercenaries."

Tribal leaders and commanders in Bani Walid, a hilltop town located 185 kilometres (115 miles) southeast of Tripoli, accuse "lawless Misrata militias" of seeking to annihilate their historic rival.

The authorities, they say, are powerless to stop them.

 

Iraq protesters quit Green Zone after unprecedented breach

Yemen government suspends 'direct' talks with rebels

Russia, US in bids to freeze fighting in Syria's Aleppo

Deadly car bomb hits Turkey refugee hub near Syria border

Tight security marks world rallies to celebrate Labour Day

Up to 100 people missing in two Mediterranean shipwrecks

Aden police chief survives new assassination attempt

ISIS claims rare deadly bombings in southern Iraq

Iraq PM calls for punishment of protesters involved in violence

Yemen government forces seize Qaeda training camp

Rouhani allies win second round of Iran parliament elections

War continues in Aleppo, with US-Russia agreement

Angry protesters storm Iraq Green Zone

UN council votes to bring back full Western Sahara mission

Air strike hits clinic in rebel-held Aleppo

US, Russia 'agree freeze' on two Syrian fronts

Aleppo mourns paediatrician killed in air strike

Libya unity government vows to end jihadist 'scourge'

Turkey demands 5 years jail for UK academic over 'terror propaganda'

UK pair accused of giving money to Brussels, Paris attacks suspect

Turkey says Bursa bomber linked to PKK

UN rights chief calls Syrian crisis 'shameful realpolitik'

Kuwait steps up deportations of expat workers

South Sudan unveils unity government

Iranians vote in second round of parliamentary elections

Palestinians support, Israel opposes French peace initiative

Biden in surprise Iraq visit to support embattled government

MSF condemns strike on Aleppo hospital

Lifeline to millions in Syria 'may be broken' as violence intensifies

Turkish journalists get two years for publishing Charlie Hebdo cartoon

Greece making 'incredible effort' to tackle migration issue

Iraq shuts Al-Jazeera bureau for 'instigating violence and sectarianism'

Syria regime readies for major Aleppo offensive

Israel nuclear reactor defects spark secrecy dilemma

Suicide bomber targets Aden police chief

Death toll in Syria's Aleppo rises despite UN truce plea

Italy to introduce migrant fingerprinting at sea

UN envoy plans to hold another round of Syria peace talks

US proposes full restoration of Western Sahara mission

27 Yemeni soldiers dead in key offensive

Global press freedom drops to lowest level in 12 years

Constitutional amendment grants Jordan king more powers

Suicide bomber blows herself up in Turkey northwestern city

Austria adopts one of EU's toughest asylum laws

Netherlands warns no safety 'guarantees' for visitors to Turkey