Bani Walid standoff continues
By Essam Mohamed for Magharebia near Bani Walid – 08/09/11
Libya's revolutionary forces are converging on the town of Bani Walid as talks over the city's fate continue to drag on ahead of the Saturday (September 10th) surrender deadline for forces loyal to ousted-Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
At the town of Washtata, south of Tarhouna on the road to Bani Walid, rebel leaders and loyalist forces are meeting at a mosque to debate conditions for surrender. The area is located roughly 70 kilometres from the residential area of Bani Walid and just 30 kilometres from the frontline where revolutionaries have stationed their heavy weapons, including 14.5mm and 12.5mm machine guns.
Rebel forces are preparing to attack the city, with some saying that that negotiations are only a waste of time. However, the fighters still respect the deadline set by the National Transitional Council (NTC).
Negotiators at the mosque hail from the Warfalla tribe, one of the largest in Libya. Revolutionaries hope to convince Bani Walid elders to surrender the city peacefully and avoid bloodshed, on the condition that Kadhafi forces with blood on their hands are arrested.
"There are still peaceful attempts to enter the city peacefully without any fighting," said engineer Mohamed Issa, a member of the negotiating committee and an official responsible for the revolutionaries' logistics. "There is a 90% possibility that this will happen to prevent any bloodshed and the use of civilians as human shields."
"We're still waiting for the end of the deadline given by the NTC, and if we had a peaceful way to enter the town, we will enter it even before the end of the NTC's deadline, which will end next Saturday," he added.
Some rebel commanders claim that Kadhafi's sons Seif al-Islam and Muatasim are in town based on movements they've observed. In addition, Kadhafi's official spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim is reportedly in the town with a group of mercenaries.
"The remnants of Kadhafi's battalions don't outnumber us, and there are mercenaries among them. If they don't turn themselves in by Saturday, there will be a battle," said Walid al-Moataz Bellah, a revolutionary fighter from Bani Walid. "However, we still hope to enter the city peacefully."
Milad Herisha also expects that revolutionaries will enter Bani Walid peacefully. He said that "the remnants of former regime's forces will not have a presence at its streets and will disappear from the town. It is said that the Eagles Legion now consists of 130 fighters after there were about 1,500 fighters. This is because many of them were killed and volunteers returned home."
Magharebia witnessed additional revolutionaries arriving from the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura to reinforce the forces that are now besieging Bani Walid from three sides. To the east is Misrata, with Tarhouna located to the north and the Nafusa Mountains to the west.
Field hospitals were prepared at the front, supplied with ambulances, medicines and other medical supplies. Doctors specialising in accidents, bone and neurological surgeries were also gathering outside the town. In addition to the specialists, volunteer medical crews were seen ready to provide assistance should it become necessary.
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