The U.N. chief expressed alarm on Monday by the fighting in and around the Libyan city of Bani Walid, and in particular the reports indicating growing civilian casualties due to indiscriminate shelling.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that all parties should be reminded of their obligations under international humanitarian law. He called on all the Libyan authorities and those in Bani Walid to “begin immediately a process to resolve the Bani Walid standoff peacefully.”
On Sunday, about 500 protesters broke into the grounds of Libya’s parliament building to demand an end to violence in Bani Walid, a former stronghold of the late Muammar Qaddafi that is being shelled by militiamen from a rival town.
Militias, many from Misrata and aligned with the Defense Ministry, have been shelling the hilltop town of 70,000 people for several days. State news agency LANA said on Sunday that 22 people had been killed and 200 wounded in the fighting.
“The Libyan authorities must be able to extend Libyan sovereignty and state control and services throughout the territory of Libya,” Ban’s statement said.
Ban urged all Libyans to work together to strengthen the legitimacy and effectiveness of state institutions across the country.
“The state and those militias acting in its name also have a responsibility to the people of Libya to act fully in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights law. All those involved in the fighting in and around Bani Walid should be aware that the international community is closely monitoring the situation,” the statement read.
Ban expressed his belief that the situation in Bani Walid could be resolved in a peaceful manner “that preserves the rights of all Libyan citizens and permits the state to exercise its responsibilities there.”
Libya’s new rulers have held elections but have struggled to impose their authority on a country awash with weapons a year after Qaddafi was killed and the fighting in Bani Walid underscored how tenuous their control remains.
In a country where rumors abound, there were also conflicting reports over the weekend about the fate of Qaddafi’s son Khamis and that of the late autocrat’s former spokesman.
In Tripoli, an unarmed group of male and female protesters forced their way past security guards at the gates of the grounds of the parliament buildings, chanting: “There is no God but Allah, and President (Mohammed) Magarief is God’s enemy.”
It was the second time protesters have broken into the grounds of the assembly since it took power in the summer.
The first time was on Oct. 4 when a group of protesters who believed their town was underrepresented in a proposed Libyan government stormed the assembly as it prepared to scrutinize the prime minister-elect’s nominations.
In the port city of Benghazi anger boiled over on Sunday night where about 400 unarmed but angry protesters stormed the grounds of private Libyan satellite channel Libya al-Ahrar.
The protesters demanded that the channel air photographic evidence that Qaddafi’s son Khamis had been killed in battle. Libyan officials had announced he had been killed in fighting in Bani Walid but that has not been confirmed.
Demonstrators said they were furious over what they deemed a false rumor, saying it had helped fuel violence in Bani Walid and stir up tribal enmity.
Bani Walid was one of the towns that remained loyal to Qaddafi the longest. It remains isolated from the rest of Libya and former rebels say there are still pockets of support for the old government there.
Some officials said Qaddafi’s son Khamis had been captured in Bani Walid and died after being taken to Misrata. But there was no official written statement from the government on this, as with previous captures of former Gaddafi-era figures.
Khamis was reported dead on at least three separate occasions during last year’s conflict. A Syrian-based television station that supported Gaddafi said he had been killed in fighting southeast of Tripoli on Aug. 29, 2011.