Qaddafi loyalists seize Bani Walid, clash with NTC forces

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Diehard supporters of slain Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi seized control Monday of “the entire city of Bani Walid,” a local official said, prompting the deployment of National Transitional Council forces to regain the town.

“The loyalists of Qaddafi took control of the entire city of Bani Walid,” said M’barek al-Fotmani, a former member of the ruling National Transitional Council in the desert oasis, 170 kilometers (110 miles) southwest of Tripoli.

The resident, who did not want to be named, said four people were killed and 20 wounded in the fighting. He said the sides were using heavy weaponry including 106 mm anti-tank weapons.

The violence was sparked when members of the militia loyal to the NTC arrested some Qaddafi loyalists, prompting other supporters of the former leader to take up arms, the resident said.

Bani Walid, base of the powerful Warfallah tribe, was a Qaddafi strong-hold during Libya’s nine-month civil war. Anti-Qaddafi rebels fought for months to take the town.

Local tribal elders eventually agreed to let NTC fighters enter the town, but relations have been uneasy since and there have been occasional flare-ups of violence.