Libyas ramshackle government lost control of a former stronghold of Muammar Gaddafi Tuesday after local people staged an armed uprising,posing the gravest challenge yet to the countrys new rulers.
Elders in Bani Walid,where militias loyal to the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) were driven out in a gunbattle a day earlier,said they were appointing their own local government and rejected any interference from the authorities in the capital Tripoli.
The towns revolt will heighten doubts in the West about the NTC governments ability to instil law and order crucial to rebuilding oil exports,to disarm tribal militias and guard Libyan borders in a region where al Qaeda is active.
Local elders denied reports that they were loyal to Gaddafi,who was captured and killed in October,and Reuters reporters in Bani Walid saw no signs of the Gaddafi-era green flags which witnesses earlier said had been hoisted over the town. But the collapse of NTC authority in the town,one of the most die-hard bastions of pro-Gaddafi sentiment during Libyas nine-month civil war last year,will compound the problems besetting a government that has been staggering from one crisis to another.
Accounts from Bani Walid,a town about 200 km from Tripoli,late Monday described armed Gaddafi supporters attacking the barracks of the pro-government militia in the town and then forcing them to retreat. A fighter with the routed pro-government militia told Reuters the loyalists were flying brand new green flags from the centre of town. The flags were symbols of Gaddafis maverick,42-year dictatorship. But elders Tuesday disputed that.
In the Libyan revolution,we have all become brothers. We will not be an obstacle to progress, said another elder,Miftah Jubarra. Regarding allegations of pro-Gaddafi elements in Bani Walid,this is not true.
Egypt emergency laws partially lifted
Cairo: Egypts military ruler on Tuesday decreed a partial lifting of the nations hated emergency laws,while saying the draconian measures would still apply to crimes committed by thugs. Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi said in a televised address that the emergency laws would be lifted effective Wednesday,the first anniversary of the start of the popular uprising that toppled authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak. AP