Gaddafi loyalists force rebel fighters into a chaotic retreat
Libyan interim government forces fled in a chaotic retreat from the town of Bani Walid yesterday, after failing in yet another attempt to storm the final bastions of loyalists of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Since taking the capital Tripoli last month, motley forces of the ruling National Transitional Council have met stiff resistance in Bani Walid and Gaddafi's birthplace Sirte, which they must capture before they can declare Libya "liberated".
Anti-Gaddafi fighters have tried several times to storm Bani Walid, 150km southeast of Tripoli, in recent days only to retreat in disorder under fire from defenders. Yesterday's failed attempt appeared to be among the worst yet, setting off angry recriminations among the attackers.
NTC fighters said they had planned for tanks and pick-up trucks with anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers to lead yesterday's attack, but foot soldiers had piled in first.
"There is a lack of organisation so far. Infantry men are running in all directions," said Zakaria Tuham, a senior fighter with a Tripoli-based unit.
"Our commanders had been told that heavy artillery units had already gone ahead, but when we advanced they were nowhere to be seen.
"Gaddafi forces were hitting us heavily, so we have pulled out."