Revolutionary fighters struggled to regroup on Saturday outside the loyalist stronghold of Bani Walid after being driven back by fierce resistance from followers of Muammar Gaddafi, temporarily quieting one battlefield while a second offensive sought to capture Gaddafi’s hometown from followers of his shattered regime.
There were no signs anti-Gaddafi forces were seeking to make a swift counter punch into Bani Walid, a mountain enclave about 140 kilometers southeast of Tripoli. The fighters withdrew yesterday after facing withering sniper fire and shelling from loyalists units holding strategic positions above the valley entrance to the town.
“This may be the worst front Libya will see,” said fighter Osama Al-Fassi. “I don’t think we will have orders to move in today.”
Meanwhile, more families fled the town. At least a dozen cars streamed out during the lull in the combat.
The tough defence of the holdout bastions of Bani Walid and Sirte on Libya’s central Mediterranean coast displayed the firepower and resolve of the Gaddafi followers and suggested Libya’s new rulers may not easily break the back of regime holdouts.
It also raised fears the country could face a protracted insurgency of the sort that has played out in Iraq and Afghanistan.