Libya: Bani Walid falls

The Libya Herald reports: Forces from the national army together with allied brigades have taken control of Bani Walid, the last pro-Qaddafi stronghold in Libya.

The announcement was made today by Chief of Staff General Yusuf Mangoush, following reports that the army and allied brigades had succeeded in entering and holding the centre of the town early this morning.

Sporadic fighting was reported between the opposing forces today, but only in certain small pockets of the hilltop town.

“The army is controlling Bani Walid and I can announce that military operations have now concluded”, Mangoush said this afternoon. “But that does not mean we don’t have follow-up operations and some resistance here and there.”

Well over 25,000 civilians are said to have been displaced, with scores killed and wounded on both sides, in a conflict that first began on 2 October.

Mangoush failed to respond to allegations that he had lost control of his forces at several points over the course of the conflict, but said that reports of a breached 48-hour ceasefire declared last week to enable the evacuation of civilians were incorrect. “We didn’t announce it was a ceasefire”, he said. “We said it was the end of the main military operation.”

The general also defended the use of heavy weapons, including Grad rockets, in civilian areas, saying that the force deployed against Bani Walid was necessary and proportionate. “They [the armed forces] used the appropriate weapons to fight. When some fighters use certain weapons, we have to use the same weapons to stop the fight. It is a practical point.”

In the past few days, the military succeeded in taking control of the populated districts surrounding Bani Walid but had hitherto failed to achieve more than temporary raids into the centre.

Both sides have deployed light and heavy weapons against one another, resulting in large numbers of civilian as well as military casualties.

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