“The reaction will be very strong; we will fight to the death.”
Despite the fact that NATO and its rebel allies have declared victory over and over again, the war in Libya is far from over. In Bani Walid citizens declare their anger over the NATO-rebels’ violence and looting and vow to fight on for their historic leader Muammar Qaddafi and the free democratic Jamahiriya government.
Enraged by the acts of retribution by the NATO-rebels, tribesmen say their men are already trying to regroup into a new insurgency movement in and around the strategic desert town south of the capital, Tripoli.
“The Warfalla tribe is boiling inside. They can’t wait to do something about this,” Abu Abdurakhman, a local resident, said during a tour of his house destroyed by an attack by NATO-rebel forces.
“The Warfalla men of Tripoli and elsewhere are sending around text messages saying: ‘We need to gather and do something about this. Let’s gather! Let’s gather!'”
Bani Walid, the homebase to Libya’s biggest tribe, the powerful Warfalla, which includes up to one million of Libya’s six million population with tribesman all across the country, is awash with guns, but the neighborhoods keep flaunting graffiti expressing they don’t want to be enslaved by NATO and its rebels.
Rebel forces present in the city said they were aware of the “problem” but as simplistically as mistakenly believed that with Qaddafi now declared “dead”, “hostilities would soon fizzle out in the absence of a clear goal and before developing into a formidable insurgent force.”
The city of Bani Walid looks very much like a ghost town after thousands fled following weeks of fierce fighting and indiscriminate bombing and shelling by NATO. Some families are slowly coming back, only to discover that many family homes had been ruined. There is still no water and electricity.
In one neighborhood, Tlumat, gunshots rung out and locals gathered quickly on Tuesday, some looking alarmed and hiding their faces with black scarves.
In Tlumat, crumbling walls were covered with fresh slogans sprayed in the green colour symbolizing the Al Fateh Revolution which freed Libya from the foreigners who now try to occupy the country again. One, peppered with bullet holes, shows what is in the hearts and minds of the Libyan people: “Allah, Muammar, Libya wa bas!”
Residents said rebel units appeared regularly in their neighborhood — perceived as “pro-Qaddafi” — shooting randomly in the air at night to terrorize the people in the past week. Locals also accused rebel brigades from far-flung places such as Zawiya and Garyan of attacking their homes.
“This is not a revolution. These rebels are stealing everything, looting houses, cars, people’s belongings. They storm into neighborhoods and shoot everywhere to scare the people,” said Abdulkhakim Maad, 30.
Another man who was selling cigarettes on a street corner littered with rubble and bullet casings, said: “The rebels destroyed our houses. There is a lot of looting.”
Tabet Awena, 80, a tribal elder in Bani Walid, points at a house with a smashed-up faced destroyed in a recent raid by rebel forces
“The reaction here will be very strong”, he said. “We will fight to the death.”
Abu Abdurakhman, whose house was also damaged in a raid by rebel forces unit three days ago, said that people were so angry that even the few who initially welcomed the rebel forces have now turned against them.
“Most of the looting happened when people were away. These people see what the rebels are doing and they are angry,” he said.
The NATO-led NTC has declared it is its “top priority” to win the people’s hearts and minds in Bani Walid and to do so quickly before it’s “too late” – which already is the case because the Libyan people have made crystal clear their hearts and minds belong to the democratic Jamahiriya government and its symbolic leader Muammar Qaddafi who lives in the hearts of millions of Libyans and people from all over the world.