Pro-government militias intercept food, fuel and medicine and use grad rockets and gas weapons against Bani Walid, a man whose family remains in the town told RT. He claims the daily shelling of the town is Misrata militias’ attempt to eliminate it.
Several hundreds of Bani Walid natives marched to the seat of the national parliament in Tripoli on Sunday to protest the assault on their home town, which has been continuing for over two weeks. The protesters demanded a peaceful solution to “the tribal war that is happening in the town.” The demonstrators, however, failed to enter the parliament, being dispersed by guards firing rounds into the air.
Pro-government forces and militias besieged the hilltop town of Bani Walid following the death of former rebel Omran Shaban. Shaban is credited for capturing the country’s ex-leader, Muammar Gaddafi, in October 2011. The Warfalla tribe controlling Bani Walid has been accused of kidnapping and torturing the former rebel.
Libya’s government has been empowered by the congress to use force to arrest those suspected of killing Shaban. Since the rebel was a Misrata native, Misrata militias joined the assault on Bani Walid.
The joint forces have been shelling Bani Walid almost non-stop since early October. At least 26 people died and over 200 more were injured in Saturday clashes alone, according to AFP. Gunfire and sporadic blasts continued into Sunday, and an AFP photographer says he saw hundreds of people were fleeing the besieged town.
Bani Walid commanders accuse the pro-government troops and militias of “shelling the town with long-range weapons and even targeting the hospital.”
One of them, Commander Salem al-Waer, said “They are pushing Libya towards civil war. Libya will become a second Somalia. Why are they putting tribes against each other?”
Several graphic clips published on YouTube claim to show dreadful consequences of the recent shelling in Bani Walid.
Plumes of white and black smoke can be seen rising all over the town and sporadic gunfire can be heard in one of the videos dated Friday. Shells hit civilian buildings. Inside one such house there are patches of blood across what appears to be the living room, while the whole house is strewn with rubble and dust, gaping holes in the walls.
Another video, allegedly from Bani Walid, claims to show victims of shelling. A 13-year-old boy killed in a blast is among them, his arm torn away. The caption reads: “Killed Oct 19 by ‘Misrata gang’ bombing.” The camera shifts to another kid – his face and right arm severely burnt, allegedly in the same shelling, and his left foot missing.
A man, who is now in Italy, but whose family is currently in Bani Walid, confirmed to RT the authenticity of the footage and sent more evidence. One of the photos shows the body of a girl under 10 years old, who reportedly died on Saturday following a bombing by Misrata forces.
However, the information could not be independently verified.
The man who emailed the materials to RT, said in a subsequent interview that the current situation in the besieged town is grave: there are shortages of food, fuel and medicine; the hospital cannot house all the injured and power only appears for a couple of hours a day.
“Misrata’s militias want to eliminate us,” the man said on condition of anonymity, citing safety fears. Below is the full script of his interview to RT: “I have got a call from my family. They tell me the situation in Bani Walid is horrible. There is an awful attack with all kind of shooting and bombing everywhere in the city. The civilian buildings are falling down. “The situation in Bani Walid hospital is really bad. We don’t have a lot of medicine; we don’t have enough places for wounded civilians. Right now the hospital is keeping wounded people outside."
“No family would leave Bani Walid. All the people in Bani Walid say the same words: ‘We’ll never go from our land.’
“There are no Gaddafi people [in the city]. Even a member of Libya’s National Transitional Council, after visiting Bani Walid, also said there were no Gaddafi people there"
“What is happening there is a battle between [Bani Walid’s people] and Misrata, which wants to eliminate Bani Walid from existence. They want to do to Bani Walid what they did in Tahoura."
“There is almost no electricity; it only comes for two-three hours a day. It is three weeks that no food has been able reach Bani Walid as militias that surround the town are blocking the roads. They intercept food, fuel and medicine. There is no food inside Bani Walid, not even milk for kids, no necessities."
“Two hundred of those militias died yesterday, and the bodies are still there. They even left their wounded people there and Bani Walid hospital is taking care of those wounded people."
“Militias went inside the city, but they only went a few kilometers before getting kicked out. They used machine guns inside; and from outside they used grad rockets and gas weapons."
“Actually we found gas masks and the hospital’s reports very clearly say that civilians in Bani Walid have been bombed with gas."
“Moreover, when we took over the positions the militias of Misrata had been taking before being kicked out, the people of Bani Walid found there gas masks. There are photos and videos of this. It’s the proof against those militias that they are using gas against civilians. Why would you be using a gas mask if you go inside Bani Walid using only machine guns and normal rockets?"
“What Bani Walid is doing is self defense. When Bani Walid first fell during the days of the fight for Gaddafi, [militias] took away everything there was in the city: cars, money, gold… Then the people of the town said “It’s a fight for freedom, we have to go out”, so they went out and their houses were robbed and destroyed, no one cared."
“Right now the civilians in Bani Walid who are holding guns and fighting, they are fighting for their land which should not be taken from them. They just cannot go away.”
On October 8, RT received a fax from one of the hospitals in Libya, which claimed that some of the patients suffered from symptoms typical of gas intoxication.
Hospital staff reported that some 26 injured civilians, “healthy individuals” with “no history of heart and lung diseases”, faced difficulties breathing and had increased heart rates, as well as muscle spasms. The patients are also said to have suffered from blurred vision and falling in and out of consciousness.
“They’re really bombing. Many are reported to the hospitals because of the gas attacks, and it’s happening almost every day. The gas is toxic, and there are some injuries,” Dr. Almahdi Azyadi from Council in Bani Walid confirmed in the phone interview to RT.