More troops surround Gaddafi's town
Monday 05 September 2011
Rebel reinforcements converged on one of Muammar Gaddafi's last strongholds in Libya today, even as they gave the town a last chance to surrender.
Thousands of rebels have now reached on Bani Walid, a desert town 90 miles from Tripoli.
They have extended to Saturday a deadline for the surrender of Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte and other loyalist areas, but some have warned they could attack Bani Walid sooner because many prominent former regime officials were believed to be inside.
Commander Ismail al-Gitani said: "We won't go inside Bani Walid unless the Warfala tribe invites us," he said, referring to Bani Walid's main tribe. "The Warfala have to lead us into Bani Walid. Hopefully no one will be shot. We don't want to use our weapons. But if the Gaddafi loyalists shoot at us, of course we will return fire."
The Warfala are believed to be about a million-strong, one-sixth of Libya's population.
Rebel commanders have said the door was still open for more talks about a surrender, but rebel negotiator Abdullah Kanshil said that "there are no negotiations." He added that rebels were talking to individual families in the town about urgent needs for water and food.
The talks broke down, in part, because the loyalists insisted the rebels disarm before entering the town.
The rebels have said the hard-core loyalists are a small minority inside the town, but are heavily armed and stoking fear to keep other residents from surrendering, telling residents the rebels will rape their wives and daughters.
"We know (the loyalists) are trying very hard to avert Bani Walid's surrender," said Jalal el-Gallal, a spokesman for Libya's opposition council.
The regime loyalists "know if they hand themselves in, they will be punished. They are trying hard to mess things up, to drag other people with them into a battle," said rebel Col. Abdullah Hussein Salem
The rebels also say Gaddafi has some genuine supporters in Bani Walid, mainly people linked to the dictator through an elaborate patronage system that helped keep him in power for nearly 42 years.
Some of the rebels outside Bani Walid have more reason than most to be impatient. Abdel-Basit bin Balla, a 31-year-old businessman, said he was arrested in Bani Walid during anti-Gaddafi protests in his hometown in May. He was taken to Tripoli's Abu Salim prison, infamous as a detention centre for political dissidents.
Bin Balla was freed when rebels took Tripoli, and has joined their forces.
"I want to enter Bani Walid with the rebel flag in my hand," he said.
While it is now held by loyalists, Bani Walid also has a history of opposition to Gaddafi. Western diplomats in Libya and opposition leaders abroad reported in 1993 that the air force had put down an uprising by army units in Misrata and Bani Walid. They said many officers were executed and arrested.
Nato, meanwhile, reported bombing several targets near Sirte and other areas overnight.
- 1 King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 4 Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant (ACCA / CIMA, ...
£11 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A 10 year old girl who has profound an...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Manager ...