Bani Walid's own rebels wait at gates of city

AP News
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Posted: Sep 05, 2011 10:12 AM
Bani Walid's own rebels wait at gates of city

Ahmed Momen's aunts kicked him out of their home in Bani Walid and he was called an infidel by his friends for joining the Libyan uprising.

Today the 22-year-old medical student and volunteer medic at a rebel check point 70 kilometers north of Bani Walid sits anxiously awaiting the order to start pushing into his hometown.

This desert town some 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli is one of the last to resist the revolution that swept Moammar Gadhafi from power late last month. Gadhafi's been on the run since, and rebel forces backed by NATO bombs are putting pressure on places like Bani Walid, Sabha and Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte.

"I tried to convince my family that Moammar Gadhafi only spread ignorance and poverty in Bani Walid and for them to join the revolution," Momen said.

His argument while visiting from Tripoli several months ago resulted in his aunts throwing him out of their house.

"I couldn't believe it, I was crying over it," he said. "I hope to forgive them after this."

Today, enough Bani Walid residents are sticking with Gadhafi to keep the town out of rebel hands. But Bani Walid and its main tribe, the Warfala, have a history of opposing Gadhafi. A 1993 coup attempt that started in Bani Walid and Misrata was swiftly crushed.

Amin Misbah said his father, Saad, was a diplomat who helped plan the failed coup. Misbah said he was just three when his father was executed for his part in the attempt.

"My whole family was thrown out of Bani Walid _ anyone who carried the same name as my father," he said. The family moved to Tripoli, and Misbah has been back only for visits since.

"I've always known of Bani Walid as my home town, but I never really grew up there," he said.

Little news of the 1993 attempt and its aftermath reached the outside world. Residents of Bani Walid said that after 1993, Gadhafi's main aim was to divide Warfala families to weaken and control them.

"Anyone who had no qualms about killing for money would be supported by Moammar," said Misbah al-Sheibani, a teacher from Bani Walid.

Al-Sheibani said he escaped arrest after taking part in an anti-Gadhafi protest in Bani Walid in May. He said he took a taxi to Tripoli and joined the rebellion.

Rebel leaders say they want to negotiate their entrance into Bani Walid to avoid fighting that could pit Warfala against Warfala.

"We have to wait for orders from the military council to push in, but look around you _ they are itching to go in, we just can't wait," said Taha Jadour, one of the rebels from Bani Walid waiting on the outskirts of the town.

The men shoot in the air out of boredom and practice their rebel chants. They rehearse skirmishes with each other in the heat.

Momen, though, hoped to move in peacefully.

"I will be really relieved when we enter, but now I am really not sure how my family will act," Momen said. "I hope they don't resist, because the people in there are my friends and family, and I don't want them to die."