Protesters break into grounds of Libya's parliament
22 October, 2012
TRIPOLI: About 500 protesters broke into the grounds of Libya's parliament building on Sunday to demand an end to violence in Bani Walid, a former stronghold of Muammar Gaddafi that is being shelled by militiamen from a rival town.
Militias, many from Misrata and aligned with the Defence Ministry, have been shelling the hilltop town of 70,000 people for several days. State news agency LANA said on Sunday 22 people had been killed and 200 wounded in the fighting. "We are here to demand the government find a peaceful solution for the tribal war that is happening in Bani Walid," protester Nasser Ehdein said.
Underscoring the chaos in the country, there were conflicting reports over the weekend over the fate of Gaddafi's former spokesman and his son. While Misrata spent weeks under siege by Gaddafi forces in last year's war, Bani Walid was one of the towns that remained loyal to Gaddafi longest. It remains isolated from the rest of Libya and former rebels say it still harbours pockets of support for the old government.
The unarmed group of male and female protesters forced their way past security guards at the gates of the grounds of the parliament buildings in Tripoli, chanting "There is no God but God, and President (Mohammed) Magarief is God's enemy." Security forces shot rounds into the air as they held their positions at the doors of the building, while elected members of the General National Congress met inside.
Ehdein said most of the protesters were residents of Tripoli who had family in or hailed from Bani Walid. This is the second time protesters have broken into the grounds of the assembly since it took power in the summer. The first time was on October 4 when a group of protesters who believed their town was underrepresented in a proposed Libyan government stormed the assembly.
Bani Walid militia leader Abdelkarim Ghomaid said the attacks were continuing in the town, 140 km south of Tripoli. "The shelling is coming from all sides," he said by phone. A Bani Walid resident said by phone, "Fighting is continuing today. There is smoke rising over certain parts of the city." Outside Bani Walid, hundreds of vehicles lined up in the village of Weshtata, 80 kilometres from Tripoli, waiting to be checked by government forces as families fled the fighting.