Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pro-US Rebels Enter Bani Walid After Weeks of Genocidal Attacks

October 24, 2012

Libyan Rebels Say They Control Pro-Gaddafi Town

By KAREEM FAHIM
New York Times

CAIRO — Officials in Libya said on Wednesday that government forces had taken control of the western town of Bani Walid, after a deadly assault that lasted almost a week and led to accusations that the country’s new government was using indiscriminate force to punish a restive city.

At least 22 people were killed and hundreds were wounded as militias nominally under the government’s control shelled Bani Walid, regarded as a former stronghold of support for Libya’s martyred leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Officials had said the attack was part of a hunt for wanted men, including former government officials and the captors of Omran Shaaban, a well-known former rebel fighter who was one of the first to find Colonel Qaddafi a year ago, hiding in a drainage pipe, before the former leader was killed.

Mr. Shaaban died in a Paris hospital last month, apparently from injuries he sustained after being kidnapped and detained for two months in Bani Walid.

Leaders in Bani Walid said the assault amounted to revenge by a rival western city, which they said had bullied Libya’s weak central government into blessing the operation. The fighting returned the specter of war to Libya and led to protests across the country and calls by the United Nations for restraint.

On Wednesday, the Libyan rebel army chief of staff, Yousef al-Mangoush, said the combat in Bani Walid had ended except for “pockets of resistance,” according to the Libyan state news agency. Mr. Mangoush also said the government’s militias had arrested former members of a military brigade once led by Khamis el-Qaddafi, one of the colonel’s sons.

During the fighting, the government’s militias cut off electricity and gas to the town and prevented journalists and human rights workers from entering. Residential areas were shelled with artillery and rockets, according to residents.

Bani Walid’s leaders have questioned the government’s assertions that Qaddafi officials are sheltering in the town, saying that most of the wanted officials are overseas. And further, they said, they are reluctant to hand over fugitives to Libya’s broken judicial system.

“Government institutions are nonexistent,” said Salem el-Ahmar, a member of Libya’s Congress representing Bani Walid.

“There is no police, there is no army, there is no judicial system. Libya is ruled by whoever has the arms and the force,” Mr. Ahmar said.

Many militias attacking Bani Walid were from Misurata, the coastal western city that endured a punishing assault by Qaddafi forces during the uprising, and whose fighters have been quick to retaliate — often brutally — against loyalist towns.

In the most notorious episodes, fighters from Misurata drove every last resident from the neighboring town of Tawergha, which was used as a staging ground for the Qaddafi forces’ assault on Misurata.

In racist slogans painted on the emptied houses of Tawergha’s black residents, Misuratan fighters warned their neighbors never to return.

The siege of Bani Walid began in September. In a statement on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch, citing local doctors, said at least seven civilians had been killed and more than 60 people wounded in fighting before the government’s latest assault, which began last week.

On Oct. 7, the group said, unidentified munitions landed on a house where families from Tawergha had taken shelter, wounding a mother and two of her children.

Three days later, an 8-year-old boy and his uncle were killed.

“The need to arrest criminal suspects should not have led to a military assault on Bani Walid,” said Fred Abrahams, a special adviser at Human Rights Watch.

On Wednesday, for the second time since the February 2011 uprising, fighters paraded triumphantly through the emptied streets of Bani Walid, one of the last towns to surrender to rebel forces after the toppling of Colonel Qaddafi.

A Reuters reporter who visited on Wednesday reported seeing fighters firing heavy weapons at empty buildings, and what appeared to be a taunt from Misurata: a poster of Ramadan el-Swehli, a Misuratan hero who fought the Italian occupation, and who was said to have been killed by Bani Walid residents.

Suliman Ali Zway contributed reporting from Tripoli, Libya.


Life and death in Bani Walid, Libya

Amid worrying news reports from Bani Walid in Libya, our colleague Mona Mahmood has been talking to Abd al-Nasser Alim, a resident in the city.

What is happening in Bani Walid is beyond the imagination. It is a tragedy. The so-called Libyan army, which are in reality a bunch of thugs, are behaving like locusts. They are attacking everything in their way.

This Misrata army are stationed at the entrances of Beni Walid and using all sorts of weapons, tanks, rockets and gases against the people.

They keep shooting the city for 10 hours at random and then have a few troops on the ground and some others in small vans trying to infiltrate, but the men of Beni Walid who are hiding in houses open fire and push them back.

Till now these thugs could not get inside the town owing to the fierce resistance by the people of Bani Walid. Before, we had Gaddafi's army. Now we have armed militias killing women and children. They have been surrounding the city for 20 days but within the last five days they got crazy and have made our lives here a real hell.

There is no safe place to hide in Bani Walid. I was in opposition to Gaddafi and was imprisoned in Abu Salim prison for a long time, but I regret every moment I opposed Gaddafi after what I have seen here.

These armed militias are so barbarian, they are committing crimes against humanity and no one is recognising that. There is a complete blackout on what is going on here. All the shelling against the city is random, bodies are in the streets for both sides and others are still under rubble – no one can help as they will be shelled too.

There is only one hospital in the whole of Bani Walid, where more than 100,000 people live. It is already in an appalling situation and lacks most of the basic medical stuff. Water and power are cut but people have stored food at home.

Some of the families started to flee to escape the shelling. More than 50,000 people left but the route outside the city is a rocky and desert one and really hard to go through with children. Other families decided to stay for fear of robbery. People are worried to leave their houses and come back to find everything is stolen.

I left during the liberation war but when I came back I found my car was stolen. This time I am staying and will die in my home. We call upon the humanitarian society to come and help us as the city is entirely sealed off and even fleeing is not safe.

This is an act of revenge and racism. People have decided to defend their homes and honour with the arms they have and I can assure you if the situation continues like that, Libya will slip to a civil war eventually.

They are destroying an entire city but people will not keep silent, there are more than 53 tribes in Bani Walid and they have decided to die for their land.

13:54 BST
Updated at 14:44 BST


Besieged Gaddafi Stronghold Bani Walid Under Attack

By Stephen Lendman
Global Research, October 20, 2012

Washington’s war on Libya rages. Fighting didn’t stop after NATO said its seven-month 2011 “mission” ended. Ravaging a nonbelligerent country wasn’t good enough.

Occupation harshness inflicts more pain. Jamahiriya Green Resistance is strong. Its struggle continues. It won’t stop until Libya regains freedom. Loyalists want no part of NATO control, puppet leaders, imperial plundering, and ordinary Libyans used and abused.

Frequent freedom fights erupt. Tribes are involved. Local militias have their own agenda. Insurgents battle each other and Green Resistance for control. Government forces serve Washington and key NATO partners.

Since early October, Bani Walid’s been besieged. Thousands of militiamen are involved. Food, medical supplies, fuel and other essentials are in short supply. Armed men block vehicles with medical and other essential supplies from entering.

Residential neighborhoods are attacked. Nearby villages were looted and burned. Libya’s so-called General National Congress (GNC) approved the assault.

Puppet rulers want residents to hand over individuals allegedly responsible for killing Omran Shaaban. He’s an insurgent involved in Gaddafi’s capture and death.

Last fall, NATO ravaged Bani Walid. For weeks, terror bombing, indiscriminate shelling, and ground attacks left it looking like a ghost town. It was one of Libya’s last cities to fall. It’s home to over 80,000 residents.

They paid a huge price. Casualties were high. Many died or were wounded. Thousands were displaced. Hundreds were arrested and imprisoned. Their crime was wanting to live free.

Bani Walid residents again are under attack. So far they’re holding out valiantly. Last fall, NATO and insurgent forces used chemical and other illegal weapons. Reports suggest they’re used now.

Injuries are unrelated to conventional weapons. Israel does the same thing to Gazans. So do US forces in Pentagon war theaters.

Mathaba reported that hospitalized residents have severe burns, “hallucinations, muscle spasms, foaming at the mouth, coughing, eye irritations, dizziness, breathing difficulties, and loss of consciousness.”

NATO and enlisted proxy forces fight all their wars dirty. Civilians suffer most. Media scoundrels suppress what they should headline.

Mathaba quoted Dr. Taha Muhammad saying:

“(W)e started receiving patients with strange symptoms that I have not seen before. Those affected were having difficulty breathing, reported dizziness and were coughing.”

“Not everybody displayed the same symptoms, but some were also suffering from hallucinations, foaming at the mouth and loss of consciousness. We believe they had been exposed to some sort of gas.”

Available medical facilities and equipment can’t properly diagnose or treat victims. Doctors cope best they can. Patients suffer. Human rights abuses continue daily.

On October 19, Reuters headlined “Libyan army to head to Bani Walid after clashes,” saying:

Army head Yussef al-Mangoush said troops are “ready to enter Bani Walid, and we expect (it to go) peacefully. The army is going to take control of the security situation.”

Resistance fighter Col. Salem al-Wa’er said “Bani Walid has been shelled since this morning from three sides – the south, the east and southeast.”

City residents say shelling continues. Commerce is shut down. Essentials are running out. Tensions are high.

On October 18, Russia Today headlined “Eleven killed as Libyan militia shell Gaddafi stronghold,” saying:

“Libyan authorities continue to struggle against multiple militia groups in the midst of growing political disarray.”

On October 19, AFP headlined “Fighting keeps mediator out of Libya’s Bani Walid,” saying:

Pro-regime militia fighters pound the city. So far, resistance fighters kept them from entering and gaining control. GNC president Mohammed Megarief promised to come, but fighting kept him away.

Earlier he founded the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL). It’s a CIA/Saudi financed anti-Jamahiriya group. It operated from October 1981 – May 2012. It actively opposed Gaddafi.

Several times it tried to oust him by coup d’etats and failed. After his demise, it transformed itself into the National Front Party. It won three of 59 seats in the July 2012 GNC election. Mahmoud Jabril’s National Forces Alliance (NFA) got 39 seats.

On October 18, the London Guardian headlined “Confusion rife as Libyan army storms town of Bani Walid.”

So far, army units hadn’t succeeded as planned. Fierce fighting continues. “We started to enter Bani Walid. We are not far away from the center,” said army spokesman Mohammed al-Gandus. “There was a big battle between Bani Walid people and our army.”

Gaddafi supporters are “hiding” there, he added. “They are fighting very well because they know they are going to die soon.”

Reports of their demise may turn out exaggerated. Last fall, NATO said Bani Walid resistance was defeated. A year later, their struggle continues. Millions of Libyans want freedom, not repressive occupation under puppet pro-Western rule.

They haven’t quit fighting and won’t throughout the country. Bani Walid is one of many battlegrounds. Eruptions can break out anywhere anytime. They won’t stop until freedom is won.

At the same time, daily violence causes so much harm to so many. So-called NATO liberation delivers living hell. Mass killing, destruction, and human misery accompany every NATO campaign and remain when they end.

Bani Walid lies 180 km southwest of Tripoli. It’s home base for Libya’s largest Warfalla tribe. It remained loyal to Gaddafi during fighting last year.

Bani Walid fighters are resisting best they can. At least 10 deaths are confirmed and dozens of injuries. The Al-Mardoum valley is most affected. It’s being defended valiantly.

Two earlier attempts this year to take over the city failed. For months it was independent and militia free. Residents assumed responsibility for local security. They’re battling to keep what militias and GNC officials want to destroy.

On October 19, Mathaba headlined “Full Assault on Bani Walid Underway,” saying:

GNC Resolution No. 7 enacted on September 27 calls for army units to arrest those responsible for Omran Shaban’s death. Ground forces attacked the city. Numerous casualties were reported on both sides.

Army commander al-Gandus claimed his troops began entering Bani Walid. They’re heading for the center of town, he said. He claimed winning this fight will free Libya. Residents know he has something else in mind.

Regime officials are largely silent. They said little about their belligerent plans. Expect illegal chemical use again on city residents.

Around 2,000 army forces are involved. Militia fighters supplement their numbers. Casualties on both sides could be high. Bani Walid resident Ibrahim Warfalli denied official reports.

He said resistance fighters maintain airport control and prevented army units from entering the city. At stake is freedom or imperial occupation and control.

Fighting is intense. Army spokesman said he doesn’t know how long it will take to control Bani Walid. “Maybe it will take some days,” he said

“Maybe something unexpected will happen. It will take time if the people supporting Bani Walid use civilians as a shield. We do not want to kill civilians.’ ”

In fact, they’re willfully targeted. During last year’s siege and this year’s, indiscriminate bombing, shelling, and toxic gases caused horrific injuries and many deaths.

Videos and other images show badly wounded children. Some remain on life support. Others succumbed to fighting.

While Bani Walid remains besieged and assaulted, resistance continues elsewhere across Libya. Expect protracted struggle until Jamahiriya triumphs over tyranny. Courageous freedom fighters won’t settle for less.

A Final Comment

On October 17, Human Rights Watch (HRW) headlined “Libya: New Proof of Mass Killings at Gaddafi Death Site. A Year On, No Progress on Inquiry Into Deaths.”

Evidence implicates Misrata-based insurgents. They severely beat and murdered dozens of Gaddafi loyalists they captured. Libyan authorities promised to investigate and did nothing.

According to HRW’s Peter Bouchaert:

“The evidence suggests that opposition militias summarily executed at least 66 captured members of Gaddafi’s convoy in Sirte.”

“It also looks as if they took Mutassim Gaddafi, who had been wounded, to Misrata and killed him there. Our findings call into question the assertion by Libyan authorities that Muammar Gaddafi was killed in crossfire, and not after his capture.”

International law is clear. “Under the laws of war, the killing of captured combatants is a war crime, and Libyan civilian and military authorities have an obligation to investigate war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law.”

Instead of investigating and prosecuting those responsible, Libyan authorities whitewashed their crimes. Washington, NATO partners, and complicit regional allies bear full responsibility. Their installed Libyan stooges do as they’re told.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

http://www.claritypress.com/Lendman.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour


Authorities deny using gas against Bani Walid

October 12, 2012 12:31 AM
George Grant
and Mathieu Galtier

BANI WALID – Government forces stationed at Bir Dufan have been accused of using gas on civilians from Bani Walid during an attack that took place Monday.

Following two visits to the town, the Libya Herald learned that 26 patients had been admitted to hospital with symptoms including hallucinations, foaming at the mouth, muscle spasms, coughing, eye irritations, dizziness, breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness.

A further 30 people were wounded following bombardments that took place Sunday and Monday, in which Grad rockets and tanks were allegedly used.

Three of the patients remain in a serious condition, including a 12-year old boy and his 16-year old sister, who are suffering from severe burns.

The attacks were primarily focused on the Mordum area, some 20 km northeast of Bani Walid, although a few buildings were hit in the town itself.

Clashes also took place in Mordum on Oct. 2, shortly after government forces took up positions at four separate locations surrounding Bani Walid.

One man was killed, named locally as Muammar Dammi, while several others were injured.

“We started receiving patients with strange symptoms that I have not seen before,” said Taha Mohammed, a doctor at Bani Walid hospital, in reference to Monday’s attack.

“Those affected were having difficulty breathing, reported dizziness and were coughing. Not everybody displayed the same symptoms, but some were also suffering from hallucinations, foaming at the mouth and loss of consciousness. We believe they had been exposed to some sort of gas.” Mohammed said he had been unable to identify precisely what kind of gas, if any, was used, as the hospital did not possess the necessary equipment.

A doctor’s note from the hospital dated Oct. 8 listed a number of the aforementioned symptoms, adding that “the response of those patients to routine medical treatments was slow and incomplete, which makes the inhalation of toxic gas a very strong possibility. All of them are very well and healthy individuals with no history of heart or lung diseases before this occasion.”

It remains a possibility that residents were exposed to emissions from a facility that may have been hit during the bombardment as opposed to directly from the munitions themselves.

“I heard an explosion, my eyes became irritated and my mouth dried up,” said Ramadan Sahad Ramadan, one of the patients said to have been exposed to the gas, who also showed signs of breathing problems.

“I saw many tanks, I heard a big explosion and then I woke up in the hospital,” said Abubaker Sudani, another patient, who had no external injuries resulting from the blast. “I have difficulty breathing, I cannot see properly and I have thrown-up.”

Responding to the allegations, Colonel Ali Sheikhi, a spokesman for Chief of Staff General Yusuf Mangoush, denied that any gas had been used.

“No gas has been used against Bani Walid”, he said. “We do not possess any such weapon”.

Sheikhi stated, however, that Mangoush had not authorized the recent actions against Bani Walid, effectively conceding that the forces at Bir Dufan had acted unilaterally.

One soldier stationed at Bir Dufan confirmed that an attack had taken place but also denied that any gas was used.

“We don’t have any gas,” said the Misratan, who requested to remain anonymous. “We don’t have that and we wouldn’t use that against civilians. You saw what we had with your own eyes when you came. We have some Grads up front, a few tanks, and the vehicles [flat-bed pick-up trucks fitted with machine guns and mounted rocket launchers].” – Libya Herald

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