Libya: More Bloodshed In Battle For Bani Walid
As convoys of anti-Gaddafi troops move forward towards Bani Walid, more bloodshed is predicted in the effort to take one of Muammar Gaddafi’s remaining strongholds.
At regular intervals, ambulances screech by in the opposite direction towards the clinic in the nearest village fifty kilometres away.
The reinforcements from the north started the day at the mosque, praying for victory in their hometown, before heading to the front line.
The National Transitional Council’s negotiator for the area, Abdullah Kenshil told us they have about 4,000 rebel fighters surrounding the collection of hamlets in the valley.
It is thought there are only around 50 die-hard Gaddafi supporters holed up in the area, but they have had time to prepare for what may well be their last stand.
When the fighters launched their assault on Friday evening, they faced difficult terrain and a barrage of heavy weaponry including rockets and artillery.
They claim their enemy is using residents’ houses as bases and firing points, making it almost impossible to fire back without risking the lives of civilians.
Abdullah Kenshil is optimistic they can take the town but says he is determined they will do it legally and while respecting human rights.
He has issued a directive to all troops, demanding: “You will not enter houses; you will not hurt the people. You will not fire in the air; prisoners will be captured and judged through the courts…”
But there is already tension between the different communities and leaders involved in the battle.
The Bani Walid commanders refused to wait for the deadline imposed by Benghazi’s National Transitional Council but say the early attack was justified.
“They are inside the city, they are fighting with snipers. They forced this on us and it was in self-defence,” said Abdullah Kenshil.
And the people of Bani Walid are determined to claim this victory as theirs alone -reluctant to allow so-called ‘foreign’ fighters onto their land.
They are proud and historically very independent and they are keen to capture the “Big Fish” Abdullah Kenshil says is personally pulling the strings behind the fierce resistance in the town.
He is convinced Colonel Gaddafi himself is leading his men, alongside his former spokesman Moussa Ibrahim and at least two of his sons.
The rebel fighters have now reached the outskirts of Bani Walid. Their target, the Souk, or market place is two kilometres away.
But it may be some time before they claim the town and any Gaddafi prize within it.
And it will surely bring more of the bloodshed that they were so desperate to avoid.