Recent clashes in the Libyan town of Bani Walid seem to have ousted the “freedom fighters” NATO fought with to oust former dictator Muammar Gadhafi. The residents, who militias claimed to have liberated, rose up against the former rebels.
The militias, fighters for the National Transitional Council, claim the uprising was the doing of Gadhafi loyalists. But much of the clashes came as a result of the behavior of the militias: residents were upset with militia men breaking into homes, looting their possessions, abusing their families, and detaining and torturing scores for suspicion of being loyal to Gadhafi.
A number of international aid groups this week found evidence of widespread illegal detention and torture throughout Libya, adding to concern that the U.S. and NATO helped bring to power thugs on a par with the dictator they helped oust from power. Also recently, hundreds of angry Libyans violently stormed the transitional government’s headquarters in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday, looting office supplies as the country’s interim leader was trapped in the building.
The interim government has not yet gained control over the militias, who not only brutalize the civilian populations of their largely autonomous cities and towns, but also clash with each other. This has led to heightened concerns that Libya is teetering on the brink of civil war.