Monday, September 19, 2011

Sirte & Bani Walid

It is not surprising that the two towns most loyal to Mommar Gadhafi are putting up the most resistance to the rebels, who many still believe to be terrorists and foreign rapists.

When the revolution began in mid-February in Benghazi, it quickly spread to other regions, and the newly armed rebels, flush with victory, set off in their pick-up technicals and stormed through the oil towns on the coast road, but stopped at Sirte, where any rebel was immediately executed and beheaded.

Gadhafi's hometown served as a springboard for the Loyalist Army to quickly recover the oil towns as well as a number of major cities - other than Misrata, and push towards Benghazi, where they were stopped by USA led NATO air strikes in Mid-March. The resulting stalemate lasted months, until the Berber tribes of the Nafusa mountains were armed by French air drops. When they began to take back one small mountain town after another, the retreating Loyalist army held out in only a few pockets - including Sirite on the coast and Bani Walid, a desert oasis that leads to the sub-Saraha desert and the rest of Africa.

When the Berber rebels from the Nafusa mountains by passed a few Loyalist holdouts - Garyana and Bani Walid, they quickly descended on the coastal towns that were among the first to rise against Gadhafi, and the first suppressed by Gadhafi's loyalist army.

In well coordinated attacks - each led by rebels from the hometowns they were liberating, local residents rose up to size the towns as the rebels approached, and even Tripoli was quickly over run by the tidal wave of the revolutionaries - except in the pockets of resistance in certain towns and neighborhoods.

But the attacks on Bani Walid and Sirite are not as coordinated, as it appears the top generals are laying back on their laurels and not getting involved in the bloody fights. Many of the fighters are from Misrata, Libya's third largest city and the one city that once liberated, held out in a five month long siege and bombardment by Gadhafi's forces.

They appear determined, but so do the Gadhafi loyalists held up in these areas - both with high concentrations of civilians who are caught in the crossfire, and are apparently being fed propaganda by the Loyalists - who insist the rebels are rats, terrorists and imperialist mercenaries. It is also possible that the fierce fights are being put up in protection for high priority targets holed up there - son Saif or even Gadhafi himself.

Because of the close proximity of civilians the NATO bombers have less of role as the street fighting moves from building to building.

Now we have to just wait and see how this all plays out.

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