Battle in Gaddafi bastion ends in chaotic retreat
Libyan interim government forces fled on Sunday in a chaotic retreat from the town of Bani Walid, after failing in yet another attempt to storm the final bastions of loyalists of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.Updated: Sep 19, 2011 01:18 IST
Libyan interim government forces fled on Sunday in a chaotic retreat from the town of Bani Walid, after failing in yet another attempt to storm the final bastions of loyalists of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Since taking the capital Tripoli last month, motley forces of the ruling National Transitional Council have met stiff resistance in Bani Walid and Gaddafi’s birthplace Sirte, which they must capture before they can declare Libya “liberated.”
Anti-Gaddafi fighters have tried many times to storm Bani Walid, 150 km southeast of Tripoli, only to retreat in disorder under fire from defenders. Sunday’s failed attempt appeared to be among the worst yet, setting off angry recriminations among attackers.
NTC fighters said they had planned for tanks and pickup trucks with anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers to lead Sunday’s attack, but foot soldiers had piled in first.
“There is a lack of organisation so far. Infantry men are running in all directions,” said Zakaria Tuham, a senior fighter with a Tripoli-based unit. “Our commanders had been told that heavy artillery units had already gone ahead, but when we advanced into Bani Walid they were nowhere to be seen.
“Gaddafi forces were hitting us heavily with rockets and mortars, so we have pulled out.”
A Reuters reporter saw fighters withdraw around two km (more than a mile) after they had stormed into the town. Anti-Gaddafi fighters from Bani Walid blamed comrades from elsewhere in Libya for being unwilling to coordinate. Those from elsewhere accused some local fighters of being traitors and passing information to Gaddafi loyalists.
“Commanders who are from the Warfalla tribe, they tell us one thing and then commanders from the other cities say something else. We do not understand anything,” said pro-NTC fighter Mohamed Saleh.
“So we are just going in and pulling back without a single purpose. It’s impossible to take this city this way. It will continue like this until they send more experienced troops....”
Blair’s secret visits to Gaddafi
Former British prime minister Tony Blair met Gaddafi twice in Libya at the ousted dictator’s expense, months before the Lockerbie bomber was released from a Scottish prison, a media report said on Sunday.
Blair held secret talks with Gaddafi in Libya in June 2008 and April 2009 before Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was freed from a Scottish jail in 2009, The Sunday Telegraph reported, quoting letters and emails. PTI
First Published: Sep 19, 2011 00:39 IST