Cracks emerge among Libya's rebels, from front lines to Tripoli
NTC chairman Mahmoud Jalil called on Libya's rebels to overcome the friction, tribalism, and political squabbling that has marred rebel leadership at a critical time of transition.
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They left the fight to those who hailed from Bani Walid itself, angry about the behavior of their fellow anti-Qaddafi forces.Skip to next paragraph
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One member of the Tripoli Brigade, Abdul Adim Moharam, confirms several reports about the rebel advance into the town late Sunday night.
“As soon as they got in the houses, the Bani Walid fighters would say, ‘This is my cousin’s house. Leave it!’ and then when we moved on, we would get shot at from there,” says Mr. Moharam about other fighters in his unit who took part.
Another problem that angered the Tripoli fighters was snipers. “They would catch them, and a Bani Walid fighter would say, ‘This is my cousin. I’ll take care of it,’ and a few hours later they would be free,” says Moharam, a computer engineer on security duty in the capital.
“This is not our war, it’s not organized,” Moharam adds.
Tougher Misurata troops – who on Monday engaged in artillery and rocket duels on the southeast outskirts of the town – should lead the assault, Moharam says. “For us, we don’t care [about the divisions]. Soon Libya will all be free.”
'Traitors' blamed for ambush on rebel fighters
Moharam says that he thought the resulting deaths of anti-Qaddafi troops on the northern edge of Bani Walid, perhaps seven, all from Tripoli, were not part of a deliberate ambush.
Others were not so charitable.
“We believe there are traitors among them,” fighter Mohammed al-Gahdi, from Khoms, told Reuters on Monday. He suspected the lethal ambush was the result of a pro-Qaddafi informant. “When we go into the city we trust no one. We don’t need Bani Walid fighters. We need bigger weapons and artillery.”
The friction between the fighters did not surprise some Libyans.
“From the beginning, the Warfallah [tribe] and Bani Walid were always going to be a complex component of this uprising, not just because the differences in opinion, but because of how extreme the two opinions are: very extremely pro-Qaddafi, very extremely anti-Qaddafi,” says Nizar Mhani, an anti-Qaddafi activist in Tripoli.
“So it’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be the opening to the other places. How Bani Walid goes, Sirte will follow, [and] Sabha will follow quickly,” says Mr. Mhani. “It’s going to be fundamental, but the regime has fallen, so there is an inevitability about which way this is going to go eventually.… There’s nothing left to fight for.”