Gas masks found in Bani Walid during the siege by US-backed rebels in Libya. The population is under threat with the entering of the city by militias., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Siege of Bani Walid: Foreign fighters, phosphorus bombs and nerve gas
Published: 27 October, 2012, 14:40
The besieged Libyan city of Bani Walid has been plunged into chaos. RT sources say that the former Gaddafi regime stronghold is under attack by militias bolstered by foreign mercenaries, and they used banned weapons like white phosphorous.
The sources denied reports of the last few days that Bani Walid was retaken by the Libyan government. Residents said that militia forces have continued their assault, while preventing the refugees who fled from reentering the city.
A man who claimed his relatives are trapped inside the besieged city spoke with RT, saying, “There is no food; there is nothing to support the life of people. And the militia does not allow anyone to come back to their homes.”
“They are demolishing homes with machinery and tanks. There is no communication or internet so people are not able to connect with each other,” the source said. He is currently in Egypt, and refuses to reveal his identity over fears of personal safety.
He believes the real reason for the inoperable communications is that many people have been killed inside Bani Walid by the forces besieging the city and now they are trying to prevent information about the killings to be leaked outside.
The militia attackers have claimed they are battling ‘pro-Gaddafi’ forces, but the source slammed that motive as a “lie and a dirty game.”
“They use foreign snipers, I think from Qatar or Turkey, with Qatar covering all the costs,” he said. He claimed that a ship with weapons and other equipment recently docked in the port city of Misrata, where the assault on Bani Walid is allegedly being directed.
“There is no government in Libya. Groups of militia control everything. They don’t care about Libya, they don’t care about the nation,” he said, adding allegations that the majority of militia fighters have dual citizenship or passports from other countries.
“We ask the envoy [Special Representative] of the Secretary-General of the United Nations [for Libya] Mr. Tarik Mitri – where is he now?” he said. “Where is the United Nations? Where is the EU? Where is the Human Rights Watch? We ask for an intervention now as soon as possible – please!”
In an October 23 UN session, the US blocked a statement on the violence in Bani Walid drafted by Russia, which condemned the ongoing conflict in the city and calling for a peaceful resolution.
Witnesses claim militia used chemical weapons in Bani Walid
“I can confirm that pro-government militias used internationally prohibited weapons. They used phosphorus bombs and nerve gas. We have documented all this in videos, we recorded the missiles they used and the white phosphorus raining down from these missiles,” Bani Walid-based activist and lawyer Afaf Yusef told RT.
“Many people died without being wounded or shot, they died as a result of gases. The whole world needs to see who they are targeting. Are they really Gaddafi's men? Are the children, women and old men killed – Gaddafi's men?” Yusef said.
The forces attacking Bani Walid have been ordered to use “all means necessary” in their assault on the city, RT’s Paula Slier reported.
“To all parasites and leaches, a message to all of them across Libya, wherever they are: Whoever you are, however strong you are, and whoever your back is – the revolution should win,” a militant said in the TV report.
‘Militias using planes and chemical weapons in Bani Walid’
People inside Bani Walid are saying that chemical weapons and airplanes were used in the attack on the town, which has left houses burnt and looted as residents fled the city, Libyan activist Ali Altakasih told RT.
“I was sent a report that was issued by the local hospital in Bani Walid in which they also claim that the militia had used chemical weapons,”he said, adding that he believes the militias have “no principles” and the government has no control over them so they will use whatever weapons they have at their disposal without hesitation.
“They also used planes to bomb the city and there was a report yesterday showing a plane over Bani Walid,” he said. “I was told by cousins and friends that planes were also used to bomb the city, chemical weapons were also used on Bani Walid, killing people inside the city.”
RT was unable to verify these claims by Ali Altakasih, spokesman for the Werfallah tribe which supported Gaddafi, of whether chemical weapons have been used or not. But he insists that if a fact-finding mission is sent to Bani Walid it would easily gather evidence and proof of unconventional weapons being used against civilians.
As the West is turning its back on Libyans and letting militias do whatever they want, Altakasih is urging the international community – particularly Russia and China – to interfere to stop these militias.
“I think the West is turning their back on Libyans and letting these militias do whatever they want to the Libyans,” he said. “They either kill them or torture them, no-one in the West is even criticizing these militias, so Libya is left alone at the moment. We urge Russia and we urge China and we urge the rest of the world to interfere and stop these militias because what they did so far is only kill civilians, many civilians, children were killed, and houses are being burnt.”
The people who are trying to return to the city are being stopped by militias, Altakasih confirmed, adding that there is still communication inside the city which makes it hard to verify what is happening on the ground. The images coming from the city now are very gloomy with people afraid to leave their homes and militias burning and looting houses.
“Any house that looks of great importance to the militias is either burnt or robbed,” Altakasih said. “There are people who are trapped inside the city who cannot leave the city, either for fear of the militia or fear of leaving their belongings inside the city.”
The conflict in Bani Walid is not really a political one but rather tribal as Misrata militias are trying to take control of the whole of Libya and exterminate any opposition, especially inside the former Gaddafi stronghold.
“To be honest this conflict is tribal in nature because the militia is mainly from Misrata supported by other militias from other cities nearby Misrata, because of the conflict that took place between two tribes 92 years ago,” Altakasih explained. “In this conflict one of the Misrata tribes or leaders was killed when he attacked Bani Walid.”
Looming humanitarian catastrophe in Bani Walid
The humanitarian situation outside Bani Walid is reportedly nearly as dire as that within the besieged city. Those who managed to flee the violence now find themselves stranded on the desert roads outside the city.
Thousands of Bani Walid residents have reportedly tried to reenter the city, but were stopped at makeshift militia checkpoints composed of pickup trucks armed with mounted machine-guns.
“Look at the people over there, they got a gun and they’re shooting at people with it,” a Bani Walid resident said, pointing in the direction of a checkpoint. He claimed that those who fled the city had been forced to stay in the desert for more than a week.
“Where is the government?” he said.