WADI DINAR: Libyan militiamen aligned to the defence ministry shelled the former Qadhafi stronghold of Bani Walid on Sunday, extending a feud between two towns that demonstrates the country’s deep divisions a year after the veteran leader was killed.
Militias, many of whom are from Misrata, have been shelling the hilltop town of 70,000 people for several days.
Libya’s state news agency said 26 pro-government militiamen were killed and more than 200 hurt as clashes in Bani Walid entered their fifth day on Sunday.
A resident said by phone that defenders and pro-government militias were exchanging sporadic fire as the government side regrouped after the bloody attack the day before.
The resident spoke anonymously for fear of retaliation.
“Fighting is continuing today. There is smoke rising over certain parts of the city,” another resident said.
Hundreds of families fled the fighting in Bani Walid to Tarhouna, some 80 kilometres away in the last two days.
Underscoring the chaos and confusion were conflicting reports over the fate of Qadhafi’s former spokesman and his son.
Some officials said Qadhafi’s son Khamis had been captured in Bani Walid and died after being taken to Misrata, however there was no official written statement from the government on this, as with previous captures of former regime figures.
On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur said on his official Twitter account the announcement of Ibrahim’s arrest and Khamis’s death was made without confirmation of the news.
No photographs of either Ibrahim or Khamis in detention surfaced after the reports.
The government has previously made false allegations regarding the capture of Qadhafi loyalists.
Khamis was reported dead on at least three separate occasions during last year’s conflict.
A Syrian-based television station that supported Qadhafi said he had been killed in fighting southeast of Tripoli on Aug. 29, 2011.
While Misrata spent weeks under siege by Qadhafi forces in last year’s war, Bani Walid was one of the towns that remained loyal to Qadhafi longest.