Fighters loyal to late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have clashed with revolutionary forces in the former-regime stronghold of Bani Walid, taking control of the city in the process.
The head of Libya’s National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil today warned of the threat of another civil war.
At least five NTC troops were killed and 30 others injured in the violence, Interfax reports.
M’barek al-Fotmani, a local official, says the pro-Gaddafi rebels who seized control of Bani Walid were using heavy weaponry including 106mm anti-tank weapons.
He also said that authorities called for help when the attack began, but the NTC did not send any troops.
“There are between 100 and 150 men armed with heavy weapons who are attacking. We have asked for the army to intervene, but the Defense Ministry and NTC have let us down,” he told Agence France Press.
“We’re out of the frying pan into the fire. We’ve been warning about this for the past two months,” he added.
Witnesses say the violence erupted on Monday after Gaddafi loyalists, angry over the arrest of one of their men, attacked pro-revolution fighters.
The town of Bani Walid was one of the last bastions of pro-Gaddafi force in Libya’s eight-month civil war.
The clashes came after mass protests in the city of Benghazi over the weekend and the subsequent resignation of NTC deputy chief Abdel Hafiz Ghoga.
Sabah al-Mukhtar, president of the Arab Lawyers Association, believes a new civil war is a real threat.
“Reason number one is that the arms are still in the hands of the various militias in various areas,” in addition to competing tribes in those areas, he explained.
“At the same time, the political views of the people are in conflict. You have a situation when people want Islam to be a part of the constitution, while you have others that are liberals who do not.”
“So you have the conflict on policies as well as the availability of arms,” he concluded.
Sabah al-Mukhtar also says there are dramatic divergences in what the NTC says and what it actually does.
“Many of them are actually from the old regime – including the leader who was a Minister of Justice under Gaddafi – and there are many other people like his deputy, like many others, who were men of Gaddafi and at the same time now they say, ‘we will not allow those who benefited from Gaddafi`s regime to stand for elections.'”
The lawyer pointed out that the head of NTC himself served as a Minister of Justice under Gaddafi and turned blind eye to many injustices in the country.