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'No Food, No Drugs': Libyan Troops Siege ex-Gaddafi Stronghold
08/10/2012 17:43:00
Armed Libyan forces continue to surround the city of Bani Walid, Libya. As tension between government troops and opposition supporters continues to mount, residents have been left without food and other supplies – and are calling on the UN for help.

Human rights group Amnesty International has asked authorities to avoid unnecessary force, and to allow medical and other vital supplies into the city.

It comes after Libya’s General National Congress gave the Ministries of Interior and Defence permission to use force to arrest those suspected of killing Omran Shaaban - the man who is credited for capturing the country’s ex-leader, Muammar Gaddafi, last year.

Over the past week, government troops have surrounded the city.

“Right now, the armed forces are attacking our city at the eastern boundary between us and Misurata city,” Dr. Abdul-hamid Alshandoli, a member of Bani Walid’s social council who is inside the sieged city, said.

The government also called on the release of others being detained in Bani Walid, giving those in the city ten days to comply. The deadline came and went on Friday.

The chief of staff for Libya’s army issued a statement on Thursday, calling on residents to hand over the individuals to avoid a military assault.

According to Amnesty International, hundreds of residents in the city have been arrested by armed militias. Many continue to be detained without being charged or put on trial, and have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated, the organisation said.

But despite calls from the army, a large number of residents have turned out to protest the demands.

As the conflict between government forces and opposition followers continues in the former Gaddafi stronghold, the city is reportedly suffering from a lack of necessary supplies.

On October 4, local doctors said that a group of armed men prevented three vehicles carrying medical supplies, personnel, and oxygen from entering the city. The men had set up a checkpoint about 80 kilometers away from Bani Walid.

A petition circulating around the city on Friday night asked the UN Security Council to convene an emergency meeting and “to immediately intervene to protect the civilians in the town.”

Signatories of the petition claimed that pro-government armed militias were trying to kill large numbers of people in Bani Walid, because of the city’s pro-Gaddafi history.

However, it seems the solution is not as easy as simply asking the UN for help.

“It’s difficult to know how to actually provide assistance in this case. It’s a question of what type of international body has the authority to come in, in what way they have the mandate or ability to act, and how they themselves can be protected - given the repeated and numerous strikes against Western targets in Libya over the past year,” according to the editor of the Corbett Report.

Bani Walid was one of the last cities to fall under the control of anti-Gaddafi forces last year.

Libya is still plagued with violence between pro-Gaddafi loyalists and supporters of the country’s new government - calling into question whether the fall of Gaddafi was indeed the beginning of a new Libya.

According to the UN, many pro-Gaddafi loyalists have been detained in grim conditions, abused and tortured, since last year’s uprising.

Reports of mistreatment serve as an embarrassment for Libya’s new government, as well as for western powers – which fiercely supported the rebellion.
I wish that God bless our brothers in Libya, and that these days of suffering may pass soon. That Libya and its people can find lasting peace.
libyans should come together and reconcilewith each other to move their country forward
Switch-over from dictatorship of 42 years standing to a functioning democracy is bound to create problems, and some very serious ones for that matter, especially when it came about through bullet and not through ballot. So, the problems that Libya is now facing should come as no surprise to any one: this was to be expected, hence there is no need to get too despondent over it. At the same time, it would not be advisable to become over-confident, relying on, and using excessive force to provide a solution to the problem. Slightest of mishandling could aggravae the problem especially when passions run high on both sides.

Bani Walid, a Gaddafi stronghold, was sure to have people loyal to Gaddafi because of tribal connections or because he had been exceptionally good to them, while mistreating others, so their affection for Gaddafi would have been natural. As such, revolutionaries would have faced utmost resistance there, and would hate the inhabitants of the locality for standing in the way of the revolution and siding with a tyrant. As such, there would have been cases of mistreatment, and worse, of the vanquished by the victors and vice versa - by the defenders of the city against the attackers.

There are reports that some militias within the city tortured and fatally wounded Omran Shaaban - the man who is credited with capturing Muammar Gaddafi - as well as some other people. Some of the victors would also have retaliated in similar fashion.

What I am trying to say is that both sides would be sure that they are in the right whereas the fact is that both will be wrong at least partly, because atrocities can't be justified no matter who commits them, and whatever the grounds.

However, in the present situation with Muammar Gaddafi gone, and people loyal to him defeated, on the balance, Gaddafi loyalists would have been more vulnerable and their natural tendency would be to hold out as long as possible, because they may be apprehensive of a worse fate, after surrendering to the authorities. It is therefore of utmost importance for the armed forces to make it absolutely clear that they are there to solve an administrative problem, which cannot be allowed to remain unsolved indefinitely, and that they are in no way guided by a spirit of revenge.

I think the armed forces have displayed exemplary restraint so far and they just have to build on that a little bit more to reassure the frightened residents of Bani Walid. At the same time, they should warn the revolutionaries that they will be held accountable for further atrocities committed by them.

Due to the continuing conflict, the city is reported to be facing shortage of food and other essential supplies with besieged inhabitants being the biggest sufferers. To start with, I think the government could arrange to air-drop food and other essential supplies in the city, and here the international aid agencies can be of great help because of their particular experience in this field. This would perhaps assure the besieged people, with no outside access, that the government is not out to punish them but is there to help them. Similarly, the besieged people need to hand over the few persons wanted by the government, with assurance that the concerned persons will be treated judiciously. They should keep in mind that as defeated people, they are in no position to dictate their terms and that by persisting with their unreasonable stance, they will only multiply their own problems, as well as of those around them, for which they will only have themselves to blame.

I hope and pray that a spirit of goodwill and good sense is displayed by both sides and satisfactory, mutually accepatable solutions are found for all outstanding problems. It is definitely a time for all Libyans to join hands and to work for the betterment of the country and the people instead of trying to tear each other apart, which would benefit no one.

- Karachi / Pakistan


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