The city of Bani Walid, a Moammar Gadhafi stronghold, in central Libya on Tuesday was overrun by well-armed fighters, who may be loyal to the slain leader, according to media reports.
Officials told Al-Jazeera television that fighters raised a green flag used by the former regime in Bani Walid—a city that took the ruling National Transitional Council months to take over. There were several hundred well-trained and well-equipped pro-Gadhafi fighters that took part in the takeover.
However, Reuters reporters and local witnesses told Reuters that there were no signs of green flags. Local elders also said the fighters were not loyal to Gadhafi.
“Regarding allegations of pro-Gadhafi elements in Bani Walid, this is not true. This is the media. You will go around the city and find no green flags or pictures of Gadhafi,” Bani Walid elder Miftah Jubarra told the news agency.
The reporters also said there were no signs that the NTC deployed fighters to the city.
A resident told Al-Jazeera that the fighters had 106-millimeter anti-tank guns, adding that seven people and 20 others were killed in clashes.
“We have asked for the army to intervene, but the defense ministry and NTC [officials] have let us down,” Bani Walid council spokesperson Mahmud Warfelli told Al-Jazeera, adding that the council has “been warning about this for the past two months.”