Libyan president seeks peace with the fighters who still love Gaddafi


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The Independent Online

Libya's interim president has visited a mountain town controlled by fighters loyal to the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a reconciliation bid aimed at reintegrating it with the rest of the country.

Bani Walid, a town of some 100,000 residents 90 miles southeast of Tripoli, was the last stronghold for Gaddafi loyalists, falling in October 2011 days after the leader was killed by revolutionary forces.

But Gaddafi loyalists rose up again in January and retook the town, expelling ex-rebels and dozens of their family members. It remains isolated from the rest of Libya, highlighting the weakness of a central government that lacks strong security forces to impose authority on the numerous local militia groups which dominate much of the country.

Bani Walid is the country's most visible challenge to the uprising that overthrew Gaddafi. Residents say that pictures of the slain dictator are shown in public during weddings. Townspeople rarely fly the new tricolor flag that replaced Gaddafi's, students refrain from singing the new national anthem, and teachers refuse to teach the revised curriculum.