Search NEWS you want to know

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pass jobs bill without ‘division or delay’: Obama

President Barack Obama, doubling down on his economic agenda, kept up his appeal Saturday for public support of his $447 billion proposal to boost jobs and consumer spending, calling on Americans to press Congress to pass the legislation and insisting, “No more division or delay.”

In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president reiterated a message that has become a central focus of his presidency amid stubbornly high unemployment numbers and dipping approval over his handling of the economy.

The President announced his jobs legislation to a joint session of Congress last week and has since gone outside Washington to build a case for its passage. He has been to Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina.

“The No. 1 issue for the people I meet is how we can get back to a place where we’re creating good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer some security,” he said.

His address Saturday came in the face of sobering public opinion ratings for the president. A New York Times/CBS News poll released Friday showed nearly half of those surveyed worried the economy was headed for another recession and nearly three out of four said they believe the country is on the wrong track.

The president’s job proposal would reduce payroll taxes on workers, cut them in half for most businesses and offer incentives for employers to hire. It also would spend tens of billions of dollars on new public works projects, extend unemployment benefits for long-term jobless and help states and localities avoid layoffs of teachers and emergency workers.

On Monday, Mr. Obama plans to spell out a long-term debt stabilizing plan that aims to cut the deficit by about $2 trillion over 10 years. Mr. Obama is making his proposal to a special congressional committee that has been charged with lowering deficit by $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion.

“But right now, we’ve got to get Congress to pass this jobs bill,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama’s jobs plan has received a tepid reception from Republicans. But his proposal to pay for the plan with limits on tax deductions and closing corporate tax loopholes is facing stiff Republican resistance.

In the Republican address, Rep. Peter Roskam called on Mr. Obama to reduce regulations on businesses, saying government agency rules were choking off hiring. “Washington has become a red tape factory,” he said.

He acknowledged Mr. Obama’s controversial decision to scrub a clean-air regulation that aimed to reduce health-threatening smog. “He can cancel more,” Roskam said.

He pressed Obama to push the Democratic-controlled Senate to adopt House Republican initiatives, including legislation that would give Congress veto power over certain high-cost regulations.

“Job creators should be able to focus on their work -- not on Washington’s busy-work,” he said.

AP

Pass jobs bill without ‘division or delay’: Obama

President Barack Obama, doubling down on his economic agenda, kept up his appeal Saturday for public support of his $447 billion proposal to boost jobs and consumer spending, calling on Americans to press Congress to pass the legislation and insisting, “No more division or delay.”

In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president reiterated a message that has become a central focus of his presidency amid stubbornly high unemployment numbers and dipping approval over his handling of the economy.

The President announced his jobs legislation to a joint session of Congress last week and has since gone outside Washington to build a case for its passage. He has been to Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina.

“The No. 1 issue for the people I meet is how we can get back to a place where we’re creating good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer some security,” he said.

His address Saturday came in the face of sobering public opinion ratings for the president. A New York Times/CBS News poll released Friday showed nearly half of those surveyed worried the economy was headed for another recession and nearly three out of four said they believe the country is on the wrong track.

The president’s job proposal would reduce payroll taxes on workers, cut them in half for most businesses and offer incentives for employers to hire. It also would spend tens of billions of dollars on new public works projects, extend unemployment benefits for long-term jobless and help states and localities avoid layoffs of teachers and emergency workers.

On Monday, Mr. Obama plans to spell out a long-term debt stabilizing plan that aims to cut the deficit by about $2 trillion over 10 years. Mr. Obama is making his proposal to a special congressional committee that has been charged with lowering deficit by $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion.

“But right now, we’ve got to get Congress to pass this jobs bill,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama’s jobs plan has received a tepid reception from Republicans. But his proposal to pay for the plan with limits on tax deductions and closing corporate tax loopholes is facing stiff Republican resistance.

In the Republican address, Rep. Peter Roskam called on Mr. Obama to reduce regulations on businesses, saying government agency rules were choking off hiring. “Washington has become a red tape factory,” he said.

He acknowledged Mr. Obama’s controversial decision to scrub a clean-air regulation that aimed to reduce health-threatening smog. “He can cancel more,” Roskam said.

He pressed Obama to push the Democratic-controlled Senate to adopt House Republican initiatives, including legislation that would give Congress veto power over certain high-cost regulations.

“Job creators should be able to focus on their work -- not on Washington’s busy-work,” he said.

AP

Libyan revolutionary forces retreat from Bani Walid as NTC gets U.N. seat

Columns of Libyan NTC fighters and vehicles withdrew chaotically from Bani Walid at dusk after hours of fierce fighting ended inconclusively and pro-Qaddafi forces continued to shell their positions in and around the city, Reuters witnesses said, as the U.N. General Assembly gave Libya’s U.N. seat to the NTC.

“We have received orders to retreat. We have been hit by many rockets. We will come back later,” ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter, Assad al-Hamuri, told Reuters as he fled from the frontline.

“We need to reorganize troops and stock up on ammunition. We are waiting for orders to go back in again,” said NTC fighter Saraj Abdelrazaq

The atmosphere was frantic and shouting matches erupted among the anti-Qaddafi fighters as their forces poured out of the city amid heavy bursts of rocket fire from Qaddafi forces.

The U.N. General Assembly, meanwhile, gave Libya’s U.N. seat to the National Transitional Council which toppled Qaddafi, according to AFP.

The 193-member assembly voted 114 to 17 to let representatives of the council take over Libya’s U.N. mission in the face of opposition from left-wing Latin American governments. Some African nations called for a decision to be postponed.

The move allows interim government leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, to attend next week’s UN gathering of world leaders in New York. Jalil is to meet U.S. President Barack Obama and other key leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

A group made up of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and other left-leaning governments sought a vote to stop the NTC getting the U.N. seat.

Venezuela’s ambassador, Jorge Valero, called Libya’s rebel leadership “a group under the guidance of the United States and NATO which has no legal or moral authority.”

The Southern African Development Community had called for a decision to be deferred to get more information on events in Libya.

Al Arabiya

Qaddafi loyalists said to inflict heavy casualties on foes; U.N. Council eases Libyan sanctions


Muammar Qaddafi loyalists have inflicted heavy losses on fighters of Libya’s new rulers in Bani Walid and are prepared for a long fight, a spokesman for Qaddafi said on Friday in audio comments broadcast on a Syria-based television station, as the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution to ease sanctions against Libya.

“The battle is far from over,” Moussa Ibrahim told Arrai television. “We have prepared ourselves for a long war. We have the equipment and the weapons,” he said, according to Reuters.

Many anti-Qaddafi fighters were killed or captured in Bani Walid, he said.

The Security Council, meanwhile, unanimously passed a resolution to ease economic and military sanctions against Libya and set up a U.N. mission to help the interim government.

The resolution was passed only hours after the U.N. General Assembly voted to give the National Transitional Council Libya’s seat at the U.N., formally ending its recognition of Qaddafi’s government.

The council has lifted U.N. asset freezes and other measures against Libyan National Oil Corporation and Zueitina Oil Company, and eases sanctions against the central bank, Libyan Arab Foreign Bank, Libyan Investment Authority and Libyan African Investment Portfolio, AFP reported.

Measures against Qaddafi, his family and associates are maintained. The former Libyan leader, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, is now on the run.

The Security Council expressed concern at the “proliferation of arms in Libya and its potential impact on regional peace and security.”

But the resolution allows arms supplies and technical assistance to Libya’s transitional government for the security of the authorities and for the protection of U.N. personnel, media and aid workers in the country.

A no-fly zone which has been used to justify NATO air strikes in Libya against Qaddafi targets was maintained. But Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin demanded that the no-fly zone be quickly reviewed, renewing allegations that NATO has diverted U.N. resolutions.

Al Arabiya

EU Finance Ministers, central bankers examine banking pressures

The banking sector was due to take centre stage on Saturday, as EU finance ministers gathered in Poland for a second day of informal meetings, amid continuing worries over the euro zone’s debt crisis.

Central bank presidents attended the talks, which were taking place days after the European Central Bank, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank joined forces to flood financial markets with dollars to bolster confidence.

The meeting also came in the same week as a credit downgrade for two of France’s leading banks over their exposure to Greek debt.

The ministers were planning to find “possible ways to restore confidence in European markets and improve financial stability,” said Polish officials, whose country currently holds the European Union’s presidency.

They were also due to discuss stress tests that had been carried out earlier this year on European banks and the status of financial sector reforms, including a proposal to further regulate credit rating agencies.

Trade unions also descended on the south-western city of Wroclaw, to hold a demonstration alongside the meeting in protest at the “overambitious pace of fiscal consolidation” forced onto the three euro zone countries that have received bailouts.

“Current austerity policies ... are fostering unemployment and rising inequalities,” said the European Trade Union Confederation, which organized the demonstration along with its Polish affiliates.

“Wages are not the enemy of the economy, but their engine.”

DPA

Friday, September 16, 2011

Looming in Libya, a murderous peace

Islamists are likely to be the principal beneficiaries of NATO's intervention.

“100 per cent sick and possessed of the devil,” Egypt's former President, Anwar al-Sadat, once said of the bizarre, almost unknown colonel who had begun to build a surreal dystopia to his country's east.

The world's media echoed that sentiment this month, as Muammar Qadhafi makes his last stand in Libya's southern desert. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) bombing campaign which forced him out of power, it is claimed, prevented epic bloodshed and laid the foundations for democracy.

Early in March, U.S. President Barack Obama claimed that if NATO waited “one more day, Benghazi could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.” Dennis Ross, a White House adviser on the Middle East, warned of the “real or imminent possibility that up to a 1,00,000 people could be massacred.”

Six months after those speeches, little evidence has emerged to show that such a massacre was in fact being contemplated: no large-scale killings appear to have taken place in cities which the regime held on reoccupied, though both sides had engaged in killings and torture. Had 1,00,000 in fact been massacred, Libya would have seen one of the largest genocides since the partition of India — rivalled in scale only by the massacre of South Korean communists by U.S.-backed forces in 1950.

This we do know: between 30,000 and 50,000 are reported to have died in a war meant to stop a massacre.

Even worse, the end of the war in Libya is more than likely to be followed by a no less murderous peace.

Libya's Islamist rebirth: “Air Cargo,” was how MI6 officer Mark Allen called him, in a secret letter to Libya's Foreign Minister, written on Christmas Day in 2003. Last month, six years after the CIA and MI6 put him into a grim warehouse in Tripoli called the Abu Salim prison, the “Air Cargo” reappeared at the head of the forces which stormed Tripoli. Abdelhakim Belhadj's story illustrates the Islamist rebirth in Libya — and helps to understand just why the euphoria over Mr. Qadhafi's defeat might prove ill-founded.

Born in 1966, Mr. Belhadj graduated with a degree in civil engineering, before leaving for Afghanistan in 1988 to fight in the jihad against the Soviet Union. He returned home in 1990 to help found the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a jihadist group determined to overthrow the country's “Pharoah.” It was generously aided in that enterprise, a former MI6 officer David Shayler alleged, by Britain's intelligence services.

From his web page on Minbar al-Tawhid, the leading Middle Eastern jihadist site, we know something of Mr. Belhadj's world view: the LIFG, he proclaimed, opposed democracy as a mater of religious doctrine, as those who believe in the glory of Islam could be achieved without a jihad.

Ideas like these had begun to gain ground in Libya in the mid-1980s, as a combination of falling oil prices and Saudi Arabian support for neo-fundamentalist Islam started to undermine his regime's foundations.

Until the 1969 coup which brought Mr. Qadhafi to power, Libya was ruled by the descendants of Muhammad Ibn al-Sanusi — a religious revivalist who gave clerics a key role in his monarchical apparatus. Mr. Qadhafi's regime soon sidelined the mullahs, seizing control of mosques and nationalising religious endowments. He even began to propagate his own, eccentric version of Islam.

From 1990, following the end of the Afghan jihad, the pressures grew. Libyan jihad-veterans began arriving home to a country hard hit by unemployment and inflation. In 1993, the Libyan army had to put down a mutiny which left hundreds dead; the following year, jihadists successfully stormed a prison; in 1995, dozens more died in fierce fighting around Benghazi; in 1996, a string of attacks compelled the regime to launch air strikes against the LIFG's mountain bases.

The LIFG was routed in combat, but its leadership found succour overseas. Much of its leadership shifted to London, often after the rejection of its claims on security grounds by continental European governments, joining hands with MI6 to wage war against Mr. Qadhafi. Elements of the Libyan jihadist movement also joined with the al-Qaeda in Sudan. Nazih Abdul-Hamed Nabih al-Ruqai'i, one of the architects of the 1998 bombings in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi, was a LIFG veteran; so too is Abu Yahya al-Libi, among the al-Qaeda's top ideologues.

In 2007, Ayman al-Zawahiri, now the al-Qaeda's chief, announced that the LIFG had merged with the al-Qaeda. In his recorded message, he hailed the imprisoned Mr. Belhadj as the “emir of the mujahideen.”

Belhadj was, in fact, then engaged in a secret dialogue with Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, Mr. Qadhafi's London-educated son, who was attempting to bring about a rapprochement with the Islamists.

It paid off. In 2009, three incarcerated Libyan Islamists — Khalid Sharif, Sami al-Sa'idi and Belhadj — published a manifesto called Corrective Studies in the Concepts of Jihad. Endorsed by both Libyan authorities and the influential Islamist ideologue Youssef al-Qaradhawi, the book argued that a jihad against Muslim rulers was illegitimate. Instead, Islamists fighting for the faith ought to focus on external “conspiracies by its enemies, the Jews and Christians.”

The deal done, a clean-shaven Belhadj was reintroduced to the world at a press conference chaired by Saif al-Islam Qadhafi in March 2010, nodding in agreement as the dictator's son described the new friendship between the regime and its Islamist enemies. More prisoner releases followed — the last, ironically enough, just two days before fighting broke out in Benghazi.

The “anti-state”: Islamists now have exceptional opportunities in Libya, evocatively described by one scholar as an “anti-state”; a system where power is derived from oil sales, not through taxation; through tribal patronage rather than modern institutions. Indeed, it is startling that NATO took so long to dislodge Mr. Qadhafi. His ill-trained armed forces were only 91,000 strong at their peak — about a third of the number needed, the expert Anthony Cordesman has estimated, to operate Libya's gargantuan equipment stockpiles.

For centuries, Libya's Ottomon rulers left the country disunited. Italian colonialism brought together Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east, and arid central Fezzan, through a ferocious war that ran from 1922 to 1935, and involved the liberal use of poison gas against tribesmen.

The Eastern tribes, who played a key role in the struggle against the Italians, won out in the negotiations that led to Libya's independence. King Idris al-Senussi, their figurehead, received the throne as a Christmas Eve gift in 1951.

Mr. Qadhafi's coup placed his western Qadhafdha tribe and its allies at the top of the pile — but he did not aspire to dismantle tribalism. His manifesto, The Green Book, applauded the tribe as a form of “natural social protection.” The nation state, with its institutions, was an “artificial political, economic and sometimes military system which has no link to human values.”

The army became the stage on which tribal tensions were played out. In 1993, for example, Abdel Salam Jalloud — a trusted lieutenant who had, in 1970, been dispatched to offer China £75 million for a nuclear weapon — attempted to seize power. Mr. Jalloud's Magariha tribe backed him, along with the Warfalla and al-Zintan — much the same coalition that brought down Mr. Qadhafi.

Each of those tribes, and their ethnic Berber allies, are now asserting their right to power — while the western tribal coalitions which backed Mr. Qadhafi are preparing to resist their claims. In the absence of mass political parties or a functional state to mediate this struggle, a protracted insurgency seems possible.

Islamist military commanders Abdel Karim al-Hasidi and Ibrahim Ahmed bin-Qumu, held until not long ago in Guantánamo, alone have the ideological discipline and military resources needed to mediate this looming power struggle. NATO intervention has thus given Libya's Islamists a fighting chance to win what they failed to secure on the battlefield: state power.

The long-standing links of Libya's Islamists with the international jihadist movement mean their triumph will have regional implications. Thousands of portable SA7 anti-aircraft missiles have been looted from Libya's arsenals. Idriss Itno, Chad's President, has said, “Al-Qaeda took advantage of the pillaging of arsenals in the rebel zone to acquire arms, including surface-to-air missiles.” Moshe Ya'alon, Israel's Vice-President, has claimed that Islamist groups have been buying weapons from Libyan smugglers.

Earlier this year, the al-Qaeda's al-Libi released a videotape railing against Mr. Qadhafi — “the false prophet of our times, the evil liar, curser of the Prophet Muhammad.” Mr. Qadhafi, he claimed, “turned his people into guinea pigs for his putrid ideas, his stinking nonsense, his reckless policies, and his stupid, idiotic notions.”

Few words were present in that speech which western commentators and politicians have not since deployed — an irony which needs little elaboration.

“War is the father of all things,” wrote Heraclitus, “the king of all: some it has shown as gods, some as men; some it has made slaves, some free.” Libya's new political leadership may well, as western optimists claim, marginalise the Islamists and build a democratic future — but the ancient Greek philosopher's words should compel consideration of not just the costs of defeat, but also victory.

PRAVEEN SWAMI-THE HINDU

Rebels enter Bani Walid after losing 11 of their men in Sirte battle

Columns of anti-Qaddafi forces entered Bani Walid on Friday after their position came under attack and one of their number said they were planning to take the town, one of the last bastions of support for the ousted Libyan leader.

“We have received orders from our commanders and we are going into Bani Walid today from different locations,” anti-Qaddafi fighter Mohammed Jwaida told Reuters at a factory 15 miles (20 km) north of the city, where the rebels were dug in.

“We were planning to do this today anyway but Qaddafi forces launched this attack to prevent our advance. They thought we would run away, they are cowards,” he said.

Libyan rebels sit next to a wounded Qaddafi loyalist near Sirte.
Libyan rebels sit next to a wounded Qaddafi loyalist near Sirte.

“We have about a thousand fighters here today,” he said, adding that they would not use heavy artillery because “we do not want to harm civilians.”

Earlier, rockets fired by Qaddafi forces in Bani Walid had hit a factory that is also used as a field hospital. Doctors there said no one had been wounded or killed in the attack. An exchange of heavy machine guns fire followed and large numbers of anti-Qaddafi forces set off to chase the attackers.

“Qaddafi forces fired four or five rockets. We are reinforcing our position and going forward,” said anti-Qaddafi fighter Mohamed Al Lawaj.

The desert town has been under siege for two weeks, with die-hard Qaddafi loyalists dug into its steep valleys and hills resisting advancing interim government forces.

Sirte

The National Transitional Council (NTC) forces said on Friday that they lost at least 11 of their rebels and 34 were wounded after the battle to control Sirte, which is 360 kilometers east of Tripoli.

The rebels said that they controlled entrances of the city but retracted, citing the move as a tactical maneuver. They also said that they entered Sirte from three strategic locations: south, east, and west and from the coast, and had endured heavy fighting with Qaddafi loyalists.

The rebels, who said that they faced snipers’ bullets once they entered Sirte, added that they are combing the city to find Qaddafi forces’ military pockets.

People of Sirte joined the rebels against the loyalists after the rebels entered the city, NTC said.

NTC accused Qaddafi forces of burning down an ammunition warehouse in Shwairaf village located south of Sirte, which is still in their control.

Qaddafi forces also control a string of Saharan oases including Bani Walid, which is located southeast of Tripoli.

Qaddafi’s spokesman

The Libyan visit of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy marked the start of the “colonization” of the oil-rich country, AFP reported Qaddafi’s spokesman Mussa Ibrahim as saying on the Arrai television channel.

The British prime minister and French president, whose forces spearheaded the NATO air war that helped to topple Qaddafi, were hailed as heroes during their visit on Thursday to Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.

But Ibrahim, in a telephone call to the Syria-based Arrai late on Thursday, charged that their joint mission had ulterior motives.

“The visit marks the start of a project of colonization of Libya,” he said.

“They are hurrying to collect the fruits of the fall of Tripoli ... because they obviously fear the arrival of America and other countries wanting a slice of the cake,” he said, without disclosing where he was phoning from.

Qaddafi and members of his inner circle have been in hiding since Tripoli was overrun by NTC fighters late last month, with the fugitive strongman still believed to be in Libya even though members of his family have fled to Algeria and Niger.

“They hurried to Tripoli to make secret deals with the collaborators and the traitors, and to take the control of oil and investments under the pretext of rebuilding,” Ibrahim said.

“They speak now about the construction of Libya for hundreds of billions of dollars ... they destroy it and rebuild it with the money of Libyans.”

Cameron, while in Tripoli, said Britain would release 600 million pounds ($950 million, 690 million euros) in Libyan assets as part of a series of measures aimed at supporting Libya's new authorities.

He also said Britain would release another 12 billion pounds in frozen Qaddafi regime assets as soon as the U.N. Security Council approved a draft resolution that Britain and France are to put forward on Friday.

Agencies

Monday, September 12, 2011

Castro says rumors of his death make him laugh


CARACAS, Sep 10: Fidel Castro, in an audio aired on
Venezuelan state television late yesterday, joked about rumors
circulating in the capital, Miami and on Twitter over the past few
weeks that he was gravely ill or had died.
The 85-year-old former Cuban president and revolutionary
icon had been out of sight for two months until photographs
published on Thursday and yesterday showed him chatting with
Venezuelan state TV commentator Mario Silva.
Some of the shots, showing Castro having a bowl of soup and
talking with Silva, were shown on Silva's regular late-night
talk show while an audio of the interview was broadcast.
''They've killed me off any number of times,'' Castro joked
in a hoarse but steady voice when asked by Silva about the
rumors of his demise. ''The guys who make these predictions make
me laugh, as if for me death would be bad news.''
Silva said the interview took place on Tuesday in Havana,
where he had gone to put to rest false reports about Castro's
health. His program supports Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
The snapshots aired on the program show a gray-haired
Castro in a white windbreaker and a gray and white plaid shirt,
gesticulating during the interview.
Shots from the meeting with Silva were first posted on a
Cuban government website on Thursday. They provided the first
glimpse of Castro since he had appeared in early July in videos
with his friend and ideological soulmate Chavez, when the
latter received treatment for cancer in Cuba.
Reuters

Tribal friction and informants cripple advance on Qaddafi's remaining bastion

Tribal frictions and secret informants have stalled efforts by Libyan interim government troops to establish control over one of Muammar Qaddafi’s last remaining bastions of resistance.

At Bani Walid, a besieged city still loyal to the deposed leader, anti-Qaddafi fighters said traitors among their ranks were passing information to Qaddafi loyalists inside the city, making progress difficult on one of the last frontlines of Libya’s 7-month-long war.

The interim government has sent additional brigades to Bani Walid -- home to Libya’s biggest tribe, the Warfalla -- to help take the stubborn city. But some fighters on the ground said the move had only added tension to existing tribal sensitivities.

“Locals don’t listen to NTC (interim government) commanders,” said one fighter, Esam Herebish. “They do what they like. They want to be seen as the city's liberators.”

Others openly accused some local Warfalla fighters of betrayal following days of fierce fighting.

“We believe there are traitors among them,” said Mohammed al-Gahdi, a fighter from the coastal city of Khoms.

He said suspected informants were feeding information to Qaddafi forces about his unit’s movements, leading to an ambush on Sunday in which one fighter was killed.

“When we go into the city we trust no one. We don’t need Bani Walid fighters. We need bigger weapons and artillery.”

Progress was not visible following days of fighting. Bani Walid is still under Gaddafi's control. Explosions boom around the steep, sun-scorched valleys that surround the city from the north as forces loyal to the deposed leader continue to shell rebel positions.

Inside Bani Walid, loyalist gunmen holed up in the hilly city center fire relentlessly from rooftops and pour oil down the streets to block rebel advances, fighters said.

NATO warplanes bombed Qaddafi artillery positions on Saturday to help anti-Qaddafi forces advance into the city but fighters said the air strikes had done little to change the picture.

Gazing down into a dusty valley from a rocky hill, one fighter said he had not expected remnants of Qaddafi’s once mighty force to be still so relentless.

“They are firing mortars. Last night we came under a hail of Grad rockets. I don’t know what we are going to do now,” said the fighter, Mohammed Ibrahim. “I have to admit they have more experience. This front is very difficult.”

Others suggested tensions existed even among committed Warfalla fighters because of their close tribal links to the people inside the city.

“Bani Walid fighters say it’s their town, they want to liberate it themselves,” said al-Gahdi, the Khoms fighter. “But when they see their uncles’ or cousins’ homes they don't want to shoot. This town is difficult. It’s strange.”

Relations between Warfalla fighters and their comrades from other parts of Libya have not been easy even on the surface, adding the element of tribal discord to the already complicated military picture.

Relations between tribes are a sensitive issue in Libya where Qaddafi deliberately magnified tribal divisions to maximize control over a fractured society.

At Bani Walid, these tensions were all too obvious.

A unit from Tripoli, deployed from the capital to help with the advance, was stopped at a checkpoint and made to wait on the side of the road as Bani Walid fighters streamed towards the city waving flags and flashing victory signs.

Tripoli fighters were disgruntled.

“Bani Walid people are not easy to work with. They think it’s their town, they want to lead,” said Hafid Bellal, a soldier from Tripoli’s Tajoura neighborhood.

“We are fighting for Libya, for freedom. We have liberated Benghazi, Nalut, Zintan. We are all Libyans.”

Warfalla fighters themselves deny there are any tribal tensions.

“I am from the Warfalla. Of course if it's possible to liberate Bani Walid on our own, we would love to do that,” said Salah Mohammed, a fighter, as he rested on a bench near a mosque north of the city after a day of fighting.

“We are not stopping anyone from helping us. If we have a chance, we would like to lead. But if that is not possible then we welcome help. We are all from the same tribe.”

Reuters