Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gadhafi's Revenge

Reports out of Libya on Tuesday are that loyalists to ousted (and deceased) leader Moammar Gadhafi have retaken control of the city of Bani Walid, defeating the local militia after a clash between the two forces.  Libya's acting defense minister told Western reporters that the National Transitional Council (NTC) was still “assessing” the situation in Bani Walid, and suggested that the fighting might simply be a skirmish between rival militias.  But USA Today quoted Mubarak al-Fatamni, the head of Bani Walid's local council as saying that the city had indeed fallen to pro-Gadhafi fighters and that he had fled to the city of Misrata.  Other reports said that the Gadhafi-era green flag was seen flying over buildings across Bani Walid.

Bani Walid was one of the last cities in Libya to fall to the Libyan rebellion that ousted Gadhafi, the city was also reportedly the hideout for Gadhafi's son, and supposed heir apparent, Saif al-Islam until his capture.  At the moment, it is unclear what is the goal of the pro-Gadhafi forces now holding Bani Walid; it is hard to imagine that there are enough people loyal to the old regime to drive the NTC from power at this point, not to mention the fact that Gadhafi is still dead and the son picked to be his successor is being held prisoner by the NTC ahead of a war crimes trial likely to take place in Libya.  But it is estimated that there are thousands of well-armed and well-trained members of the former regime still in Libya.  The raid on Bani Walid also shows the weakness of the NTC, which despite the word “national” is far from being a unifying government in Libya.  During the uprising against Gadhafi, militias sprung up in many Libyan towns, these militias are still jockeying for power in the new Libya, occasionally even openly fighting with each other.  In addition, a protest in Benghazi, the launching point of the Libyan revolt, spun out of control last week, with protesters sacking an office belonging to the NTC.  The protest was over the NTC's lack of transparency and a belief that the NTC is putting foreign interests ahead of those of average Libyans.  Bani Walid's al-Fatamni said that he had been warning Tripoli about the possibility of a loyalist attack for two months and had requested reinforcements, but none came before the attack. 
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