The Bitter Rump of Qaddafi Loyalists

Qaddafi fighters are launching attacks from Algeria, Sirte, and Bani Walid

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The news out of Libya this morning underlines the daunting challenges facing Libya's new leaders: Even as they seek to overcome internal divisions and unify a war-torn and fragmented country, they're still contending with stubborn resistance from forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi both inside and outside the country. Over the weekend, Libyan military officials announced that Qaddafi loyalists had driven cars full of weapons into Libya from Algeria and launched a deadly attack on anti-Qaddafi fighters in the desert town of Ghadamis. The New York Times explains that the assault could portend future strikes from Algeria, which has given shelter to Qaddafi's relatives and been accused of supporting Qaddafi politically and militarily throughout the Libyan uprising.

In Libya itself, the National Transitional Council controls Tripoli and most of the country but has yet to capture Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte and the town of Bani Walid, which is a little over 100 miles southeast of Tripoli. NATO, which extended its mission in Libya for another 90 days last week, is bombing targets in Sirte in advance of a renewed NTC offensive on the coastal city. Peter Parker argues today at Reuters that the "hilltop desert badlands of Bani Walid"--where Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam is rumored to be hiding (Qaddafi himself is believed to be on the run inside Libya)--could mark where Qaddafi's forces make their last stand. "Chaotic organisation, lack of leadership and factional rivalries have wrecked the cohesion of the anti-Gaddafi push on the town, turning their assaults into debacles," Parker writes.

The anti-Qaddafi fighters near Bani Walid aren't the only ones plagued by divisions. The Times reports today that tribal and regional rivalries are preventing the NTC from forming a cabinet and motivating the former rebels to hoard weapons and even captured members of Qaddafi's government rather than hand them over to Libya's provisional government.  During a news conference this week, NTC President Mustafa Abdel Jalil declared that political power would not be dispensed based on the extent to which locations suffered during the uprising. "Fighting and struggle is not a measure for representation in government," he declared.

In a separate development, officials of Libya's interim government announced on Sunday that former security guards at Abu Salim prison in Tripoli had pointed them to a mass grave with the remains of more than 1,200 prisoners who were massacred there in 1996 (one of the sparks for the Libyan uprising in February was a demonstration by relatives of the victims in Benghazi). While Libyan officials are waiting for international help in excavating the muddy, weed-filled field, CNN notes, people are already showing reporters bones and prison clothing they've collected, though most of the bones appear to belong to animals. The AP has video of the search already underway:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.