Rebels prepare for assault on Gaddafi stronghold; international community ponders Libya’s future

Updated On: Sep 05, 2011

Talks between Gaddafi loyalists fortified in the town of Bani Walid and rebel forces have collapsed, making a rebel advance on the town imminent.

Rebel negotiator Abdullah Kanshil said negotiations failed after Moussa Ibrahim, Gaddafi's chief spokesman and a top aide, insisted the rebels lay down their arms before entering Bani Walid.

“From my side, negotiations are finished,” Kanshil told reporters. “They said they don't want to talk, they are threatening everyone who moves. They are putting snipers on high-rise buildings and inside olive groves. They have a big fire force.”

Bani Walid is one of the few towns still under Gaddafi’s control. Libya’s interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), has been working towards a peaceful resolution of the civil war. NTC representatives claimed that tribal leaders in the town are divided on the next steps but that a peaceful handover of the town may take place soon.

Bani Walid is home to the Warfalla tribe, who make up a sixth of Libya’s population. Gaddafi has claimed in an audio message released last week that the Warfalla tribe will defend him at all costs. The rebels have declared advances on Bani Walid several times and that the deadline for a resolution has already been extended by a week.

Gaddafi remains at large, but is speculated to be in Bani Walid, while others say that he is located in his birthplace of Sirte.

Report: Talks to avert rebel attack on dictator's stronghold (The Independent, 5 September 2011)
Report: Libyan fighters prepare for assault on Gaddafi desert bastion (The Washington Post, 5 September 2011)

A mounting humanitarian crisis is taking place in Bani Walid, which is reported to have had no power and water for a week, as well as diminishing food supplies. Rebels had offered to bring doctors and medical supplies into the town, but Gaddafi loyalists could not accept the rebels’ insistence on bringing in their own troops along with the supplies.

Rebel spokesman Abusif Ghnyah, who comes from Bani Walid, said, “We have heard some of the Gaddafi gangs controlling Bani Walid are making trouble for the people. They are firing into the air and threatening people. They are giving guns to children. They are destroying the city.”

Report: Bani Walid: an escalating humanitarian crisis (Guardian, September 4, 2011)

Meanwhile, the NTC is pushing reconstruction efforts forward, establishing a supreme security council to protect Tripoli and hoping to restore Tripoli’s water supply soon.

The UN secretary general’s special adviser, Ian Martin, said that Libya faced a number of challenges, including preparing for free and fair elections, setting up a justice system that balanced between accountability for human rights abuses and the fostering of reconciliation, and building a “democratically accountable” police force.

However, tensions in the new government are present, with a key Islamist military commander calling on all the NTC heads to resign. Ismail al-Salabi said, “The role of the executive committee is no longer required because they are remnants of the old regime. They should all resign, starting from the head of the pyramid all the way down.”

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini warned against a complete purge of Gaddafi-era military officials, calling upon Libya and the international community not to repeat the same mistake made in Iraq. The U.S. and Iraq disassembled the Iraqi army after Saddam Hussein’s fall, putting many Iraqis on the streets with some joining the insurgency. Frattini also underscored the importance of preventing extremist infiltration into the new Libyan government.

Report: Libya conflict: Bani Walid siege talks 'have failed' (BBC, 5 September 2011)
Report: Libyan Fighters Prepare to Attack Gadhafi Stronghold (Voice Of America, 4 September 2011)

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