Life slowly returns to former Gaddafi stronghold

Sun Nov 4, 2012 9:39am GMT

By Ghaith Shennib

BANI WALID, Libya (Reuters) - Hundreds of cars filled with families took advantage of the quiet lull after the Muslim holiday of Eid to return to their homes after a siege around the former Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid was lifted.

A week earlier, a similar stream of cars carrying the same people headed the other way. Families loaded with belongings fled attacks from militiamen aligned with the government who said they were wresting control of a city that remained anti-revolution.

Fighters captured the town on October 24 amid chaotic, vengeful scenes that demonstrated the weakness of the new government's hold over militiamen who owe it allegiance but largely do as they please.

Abbas Ali, 25, was driving his family back home after being forced to leave Bani Walid when his home was hit by a mortar bomb, wounding his sister.

"I have no idea what is waiting for me when I go back home," he said, looking over the long line of cars.

Pro-government forces moved on Bani Walid after Omran Shaaban, the fighter who found ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi hiding in a drain in Sirte weeks after rebels took Tripoli, died following two months of detention in the town.

The militias, mostly from the rival city of Misrata, set out to find those suspected of abducting and torturing Shaban, and the national congress gave Bani Walid a deadline to hand them over.

Bani Walid residents baulked at turning over the wanted men accused of torturing Shaaban to unruly groups while the justice system remains in disarray.   Continued...

Civilians returning to their homes with their belongings pass a checkpoint manned by police in the centre of Bani Walid, some 170km (106 miles) south of Tripoli, November 3, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny
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