A town of between 70,000 and 90,000 people, Bani Walid had been repeatedly sacked by various militias since the end of last year’s Libyan civil war. This time, sacked by the Misrata militia yet again, the vast majority of the population fled threats of revenge killings.
“After what happened in Bani Walid you can say almost all of the population fled,” noted one aid group, which expressed hope for getting the civilians, stuck in the desert around the outskirts of town with no food or water, home again.
But troops with the Misrata militia aren’t letting that happen, and have announced they don’t intend to let anyone return to their homes for at least the next several days, saying that they want to make sure “it is safe.”
The real reason is that the militia damaged a lot of civilian homes and spray-painted graffiti all over town, according to one Army official, who says that the decision to not let civilians or journalists into town was to prevent “strife” from the destruction. The Libyan Army insists it has no control over the attack and it was entirely up to the militia.