Humbled anti-Gaddafi forces gripe outside Bani Walid

Traitors, snipers and oil slicks blamed for defeat; "We will not rely on our commanders any more," says NTC fighter.

By REUTERS
September 17, 2011 14:38
2 minute read.
Anti-Gaddafi forces assault Bani Walid stronghold

Libya Bani Walid 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

OUTSIDE BANI WALID, Libya - Grumbles replaced gunfire outside the Muammar Gaddafi bastion of Bani Walid on Saturday as Libyan interim government fighters sat in the morning sun discussing their defeat the day before, as occasional mortar bombs whistled towards them.

"It was difficult," admitted one fighter, surprised he had survived a hail of sniper fire and rockets when his brigade raced into Bani Walid on Friday. "We'll do it differently next time."

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The mood could not have been more different to the one on Friday when ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) forces, who had waited outside the town through more than two weeks of abortive negotiations for its surrender, were finally given the order to take it with a full-on military assault.

After hours of heavy fighting, the NTC men started pouring out of Bani Walid almost as fast as they had poured in, saying they had been ordered to retreat after facing stout resistance. That was a serious setback to a new government trying to exert its control over all of Libya and capture remaining bastions of the man who ruled it eccentrically for 42 years.

"There are traitors among us," Anas Madraha, an NTC fighter, told Reuters, repeating a familiar refrain that Gaddafi infiltrators were feeding information to Bani Walid's defenders.

For others, the oil the Gaddafi men poured down the steep streets leading to the city center was the problem. There were not enough troops. The organization was chaotic. There was no cooperation between the different brigades who took part in the attack. There was a lack of discipline, they said.

One fighter, Nuraldin Zardi, told Reuters his brigade had missed the order to retreat and had found itself trapped and isolated inside Bani Walid hours after their comrades had fled.

Zardi said his unit had conserved its ammunition and fought its way out street by street. "We will not rely on our commanders any more," he added, reflecting growing dissent in the ranks, both between brigades and towards officers. "We will do everything ourselves and take our own decisions."


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