Libya fights for control of old Gaddafi stronghold

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The Independent Online

Fierce fighting in a former stronghold of the deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that has left more than 30 dead entered its fifth day yesterday, as the country's new government struggles to contain violence one year on from the dictator's overthrow.

The town of Bani Walid, which is still home to pockets of supporters of the former Libyan leader, has been under heavy shelling from pro-government militias for days as they try to regain control of the town.

Libya's state news agency said that 22 people were killed and a further 200 injured in the assault in the past two days alone, as hundreds of families fled to neighbouring areas.

In Tripoli yesterday, about 200 protesters muscled their way into the parliament building, demanding the fighting in Bani Walid stop and saying only civilians are getting hurt.

The clashes came amid confusion over the whereabouts of Gaddafi's former spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim. A statement from the Prime Minister's office on Saturday said militias had captured Mr Ibrahim in nearby Tarhouna. But this report was cast into doubt later that evening when an audiotape surfaced on the internet in which a man purporting to be Mr Ibrahim denied that he had been detained.

Mr Ibrahim, who became the international face of the Gaddafi regime as he met regularly with Western journalists in Tripoli during the Libyan revolution, is one of the few high-profile regime figures still unaccounted for; the others having been captured or killed.

Also said to have been killed in the fighting in Bani Walid was Khamis Gaddafi, the youngest son of the former Libyan dictator. Omar Hamdan, a spokesman for the Libyan National Congress, said the 28-year-old was killed "in battle", but did not give further details.

The government has previously made false claims regarding the capture of Gaddafi loyalists, and Khamis was reported dead on at least three separate occasions during last year's conflict.