Gaddafi loyalists attack and seize control of Bani Walid

Supporters of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi attacked several cities across Libya, killing seven fighters and seized control of the town Bani Walid, the AFP reported.

The Associated Press reported attacks also took place in the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi, the city where the uprising against Gaddafi began nearly a year ago. It is not clear if the attacks were coordinated.

This is the first major offensive launched by Gaddafi loyalists since the leader was ousted on Oct. 23, shortly after the fall of Bani Walid.

"The loyalists of Gaddafi took control of the entire city of Bani Walid," said M'barek al-Fotmani, a former member of the ruling National Transitional Council in the desert oasis, the AFP reported.

Read more at GlobalPost: Libya: Was it better under Gaddafi?

Bani Walid, located about 90 miles from the capital Tripoli, was hit with fierce fighting before loyalists took over. Spokesman Mahmoud al-Warfali of the new regime in Bani Walid, said up to 150 Gaddafi loyalists raised his former green Libyan flag at the northern gate of the town and were battling forces in the streets with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s, the Associated Press reported.

"These are Gaddafi remnants who tried to take over the city," al-Warfali said, the AP reported. "They have tried to do this before and take over the interim government's office, but thank God we have been able to fight them off." He said four people were killed in the process, although he didn’t know how many were injured.

Read more at GlobalPost: Bani Walid claimed by NTC forces

He said ammunition supplies had almost run out and he appealed to Tripoli and the defense ministry to send reinforcements, but no help has come yet, the Guardian reported.

"We're out of the frying pan into the fire. We've been warning about this for the past two months," he said, the Guardian reported.

Bani Walid was one of the last Libyan towns to surrender to anti-Gaddafi revolutionaries last year, and is the base of the powerful Warfallah tribe, the Guardian reported. Many in the town oppose Libya’s new transitional leadership. The takeover comes at a sensitive time for the NTC when violent protests in the city of Benghazi have just finished and another senior official has resigned.

An air force official said jets are being prepared to fly into Bani Walid, while Tripoli’s security is being tightened, Reuters reported.

Read more at GlobalPost: Libya fighters claim capture of Bani Walid

UPDATE: Abdel-Rahman al-Soghayar, a commander from the new regime in Tripoli, said shooting also took place in several neighborhoods within the capital forcing people to flee inside and close shops early.

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