Libyan forces are now inside the desert town of Bani Walid, one of the last parts of the country still holding to on-the-run dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The rebels — now firmly in control of the vast majority of Libya (and rarely referred to as “rebels” anymore) — had given the town several days to switch sides, sending negotiators to parlay with the dominant Warfalla tribe there. But after talks broke down Friday, the Transitional National Council forces launched a two-pronged attack on the town yesterday. Reuters now reports that fighters managed to enter the town, with most of the pro-Qaddafi resistance concentrated in the central market and evident in the recognizably-bombastic call to arms of the local pro-Qaddafi radio station.
We urge the people of Bani Walid to defend the city against the rats and armed gangs. Don’t back down. Fight to the death. We are waiting for you. You are just a bunch of gangsters. God is on our side.
Ultimately, the NTC forces had to pull back from the town under heavy mortar and rocket fire from pro-Qaddafi fighters and to get out of the way of incoming NATO bombing runs, which targeted Bani Walid and Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte nearby. Today, those forces pushed back into Bani Walid while advancing the front lines to just 55 miles outside Sirte. While it remains unclear whether Qaddafi is in either place, rebels say they have the self-proclaimed Brother Leader surrounded in a 40-mile radius area; where that is exactly, they will not say. If true, taken in conjunction with the renewed offensive and news that Qaddafi’s spy chief Bouzaid Dorda may have been detained, we may be looking at the penultimate chapter of the anything-but-boring Muammar Qaddafi saga. The question that remains now is whether that final chapter will tell of Qaddafi’s arrest and prosecution before a Libyan or international court or of his self-immolation.