Libyan Rebels Preparing to Attack Bani Walid

Libyan rebels say negotiations over the surrender of one of Qaddafi's strongholds failed, are waiting for green light to attack.

Elad Benari,

Libyan rebel fighters
Libyan rebel fighters
Arutz Sheva: Wikimedia Commons

Negotiations over the surrender of one of former Libyan strong Muammar Qaddafi’s remaining strongholds have collapsed and Libyan rebels are waiting for the green light to launch their final attack on the besieged town of Bani Walid, a spokesman said on Sunday.

Rebel negotiator Abdullah Kanshil told The Associated Press the talks had broken down after Qaddafi top aide Moussa Ibrahim insisted the rebels put down their weapons before entering the town, located about 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of the capital Tripoli.

Qaddafi and his allies remain on the run but enjoy support in several central and southern areas, including Bani Walid and the Qaddafi hometown of Sirte, AP noted.

The rebels have said Qaddafi’s hard-core loyalists are a small minority inside Bani Walid, but are heavily armed and stoking fear to keep other residents from surrendering.

Last week, the rebels extended to Saturday a deadline for the surrender of Sirte, but some have warned they could attack Bani Walid sooner because many prominent former regime officials were believed to be inside.

AP noted that there has been speculation that Qaddafi himself, along with his son Saif al-Islam, had been in Bani Walid at some point.

It is still unknown where Qaddafi is at the present time. Last Thursday he released a message from his hiding place, vowing to fight and saying the tribes that remain loyal to him are preparing for a “long battle.”

Meanwhile, rebels arriving from Misrata reported on Saturday they faced no resistance when they took two military camps on the outskirts of Bani Walid.

“Negotiations are over, and we are waiting for orders” to attack, a rebel commander told AP. “We wanted to do this without bloodshed, but they took advantage of our timeline to protect themselves.”

The spokesman said more of Qaddafi’s loyalists have moved into Bani Walid from the south which is outlined by a line of high hills, but did not know how many.

LIbya is a country carved out of tribal strongholds,with varying loyalties and southern tribes culturally closer to Africa, western tribes to Egypt and eastern ones to North African countries, so that its unity after the civil war ends depends on handling the tribal demarcations that the war exacerbated.