Civilians flee besieged former Gaddafi stronghold in Libya

Mon Oct 22, 2012 5:02pm GMT

By Ali Shuaib

WADI DINAR Libya Oct 22 (Reuters) - Families fleeing violence in the besieged Libyan city of Bani Walid said on Monday there were shortages of food and water and the city's hospital was under fire as militias loyal to the government shelled the former stronghold of Muammar Gaddafi.

The isolated hilltop town some 140 km (100 miles) south of Tripoli was one of the last to surrender to the rebels who overthrew Gaddafi last year.

Pro-government forces moved up to Bani Walid early this month after militiaman Omran Shaban died after two months in detention there. Shaban, from the rival city of Misrata, was the man who found Gaddafi hiding in a drain pipe outside Sirte on Oct. 20, 2011.

Libya's congress ordered the Defence and Interior Ministries to find those suspected of abducting, torturing and killing Shaban. It gave Bani Walid a deadline to hand them over.

The siege of Bani Walid highlights the government's inability to reconcile former rebel fighters and Gaddafi loyalists, and also its failure to bring many of the militias that deposed the dictator fully under its control.

In scenes reminiscent of the civil war, scores of cars filled with families, and pick-up trucks loaded down with mattresses, children and food lined up at a government-run check point outside Bani Walid hoping to escape the violence.

"We haven't slept in days from the fear of dying and the sounds of shelling," said Mohammed Abdel-Salam as his car was checked. "My house was shelled with a rocket and destroyed. Medicine is becoming scarce in pharmacies, even food in shops."

Two pro-government fighters were killed near Bani Walid on Monday, one of the militiamen said. Libya state news agency LANA said on Sunday that 22 pro-government militiamen had been killed and some 200 wounded, but it did not say when.   Continued...

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