Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Libya: NTC now claim to be in control of Bani Walid

As fighting continues in isolated pockets of the country, the National Transitional Council (NTC) now claim to be in control of Bani Walid which is one of the last remaining bastions of Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi loyalty. Following yet another push for the centre of the city, there were reports on 18th October that the new government had managed to raise its flag.

Sirte, however, appears to be offering some resistance, as probably only a few hundred heavily armed, but increasingly desperate, Qadhafi loyalists and mercenaries continue to withstand government forces. Although they have been forced into small pockets of the city, the fighting remains fierce.

Residents who had fled the fighting are now returning to areas that have been cleared of pro-Qadhafi forces. There have been several reports of looting in the city – albeit mainly against properties owned by Qadhafi's inner circle and business partners - which have been attributed to the NTC fighters' vengeance against Sirte's previously privileged position. Qadhafi favoured his home town, which grew from a small fishing village into an attractive and pampered town of around 50,000 with more modern infrastructure than nearby Misrata which has a population of over 350,000.

Last week, there were widespread reports that Mu'atassim Qadhafi had been captured in Sirte and had been flown to Benghazi. This led to wild celebrations in which 15 people were killed and around 70 were injured by falling bullets in Tripoli alone. There are now unconfirmed reports, mostly attributed to residents leaving Sirte, that Mu'atassim and Abu Baker Younis Jaber, head of the armed forces and one of the few remaining members of Qadhafi's original Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) – are still somewhere in the Sirte area.

It has been presumed that they are part of the small inner circle directing fighting in the former Leader's home town. Officially, there has been no confirmed sighting of anyone in Colonel Qadhafi's inner circle for some time. Al Jazeera reported that Saif al Islam Qadhafi escaped from Bani Walid about a week ago.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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