Forces loyal to the late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi have launched a series of attacks across several cities, killing seven fighters who helped topple the former regime, officials and residents said.
The violence on Monday came as Libya’s new leaders struggle to stamp out lingering resistance from pro-Qaddafi forces and try to unify a deeply fractured country after eight months of civil war and more than 40 years of authoritarian rule.
The attacks were spread out and took place in the western city of Bani Walid, the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi, the city where the uprising against Qaddafi started nearly a year ago. It is not clear if the attacks were coordinated.
Violence broke out first in Bani Walid, where pro-Qaddafi fighters have long tormented Libya’s revolutionaries.
Mahmoud al-Warfali, a spokesman for the revolutionary brigade in Bani Walid, said at least four of his fighters were killed in the city, which was one of the last former regime strongholds to fall to revolutionary command.
He said up to 150 pro-Qaddafi fighters were engaged in the street battle, using rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s. He said they managed to raise the green Libyan flag of Qaddafi’s regime at the northern gate of the town.
“These are Qaddafi remnants who tried to take over the city,” al-Warfali said. “They have tried to do this before and take over the interim government’s office, but thank God we have been able to fight them off.”
Tthree fighters were killed late on Monday by pro-Qaddafi forces in Benghazi, field commander Abdel-Basit Haroun said.
Abdel-Rahman al-Soghayar, a commander from the new regime in Tripoli, said shooting also took place in several neighborhoods of the capital on Monday evening, forcing people to remain indoors and stores to close early. He blamed the gunfire on “sleeper cells” loyal to Qaddafi who he said are attempting to take advantage of the fighting in Bani Walid. There was no word of casualties.
The attacks are the latest breakdown in security, three months after Qaddafi’s capture and killing.