The Libya Herald reports: The head of the Libyan armed forces, General Yousef Mangoush, has no control over Bani Walid and civilians are being prevented from returning home by vigilante “gunmen”, Defence Minister Osama Juwaili has said.
In a scathing broadside, almost certain to be his last as defence minister ahead of Prime Minister-elect Ali Zidan’s expected announcement of a new government later today, Juwaili said the hilltop town was near-deserted as a result of the fighting and that the small number of people who remain are living in terrible conditions.
“The chief of staff has no control over the town and therefore armed men are able to prevent families from coming back”, the minister was quoted as saying by AFP, following a televised speech on Monday.
“The town is completely empty except for a small number of people who are living in tragic conditions; there is no activity; the impact of shelling is visible everywhere”.
He went on to describe soldiers controlling the checkpoint leading into the town as “gunmen”.
In his first public statement on Bani Walid, Juwaili claimed that as many as 40,000 people had been displaced by the conflict out of a town reckoned to be home to some 80,000 residents. As at 22 October, the International Committee of the Red Cross said that some 25,000 people had fled into the Urban area, to the northwest of Bani Walid, alone. The Libya Herald saw little sign of life on the morning of 25 October during a visit.
The remarks are deeply at odds with the statement made last Friday by army spokesman Ali Al-Sheikhi, who said that refugees were being allowed to return to the town and that no reports of any “violations” against them had been received. He added that should any such incidents take place, then an immediate investigation into them would be launched. [Continue reading…]