Former rebels allied to Libya’s army have attacked the town of Bani Walid leaving 11 dead and dozens wounded, local medical officials have said.
The deputy director of Bani Walid’s hospital, Abdullah al-Mansuri, said on Thursday that his facility had received “seven dead people and 75 wounded, including a 14-year-old girl”.
The commander of the ex-rebel group, Libya Shield, said four of his men had been killed and 19 wounded in the fighting for the hilltop town, which is a known bastion of slain leader Muammar Gaddafi.
“Bani Walid was shelled from three fronts today,” said Massud al-Waer, a town official. He said dozens of residents were wounded in the assault on the town, which has been under siege for weeks.
The ongoing clashes between rival armed groups underline the challenges facing the new Libyan government.
Reporting from the capital, Tripoli, Al Jazeera’s Omar Al Saleh said the attack came after the death of a former rebel from the city of Misrata who was credited with capturing Gaddafi.
“The general feeling in Libya is that Bani Walid has not been truly been liberated during the revolution,” said Saleh.
“Others also see a rivalry between Misrata and Bani Walid, and the challenge for the government is to end the crisis,” said Saleh.
Omar ben Shaaban, 22, was kidnapped and allegedly tortured by armed men in Bani Walid. He later died in a hospital in France.
In response, the rebels from Misrata surrounded Bani Walid demanding that the suspects be handed over to authorities.
Last week, tribal chiefs in Bani Walid said they would refuse the entry of “lawless militias” into the town and said they did not recognise a military authority in Libya.
The standoff later escalated into firefights. The two towns have a long history of rivalry.
The impression in Libya is that Bani Walid “was not truly liberated” during the revolution last year, Al Saleh said.
Residents of Bani Walid have complained that they have been “unfairly treated” just because of their link to Gaddafi, he added.
Libya’s army chief of staff said the army was “ready to enter Bani Walid”.
The statement called on “all parties to exercise self-restraint” so that “units of the regular army can impose the authority of the state”.