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Libyan militias capture ex-Gadhafi bastion Bani Walid

Fighters aligned with the Libyan government have captured the city of Bani Walid, a former stronghold of slain dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Fighting in the city has fueled tensions between rival militia groups.

Pro-government Libyan forces advanced into the center of Bani Walid on Wednesday, hoisting revolutionary flags over vacant buildings in a city that had long defied the power of the central government in Tripoli.

"The military act is now finished," said Army Chief of Staff Youssef al-Mangoush. "We are now working to make the city more stable and secure. That doesn't mean that there isn't some resistance here or there. Now the government is in charge."

Scene of torture

The latest round of fighting in Bani Walid, located 170 kilometers (105 miles) south of Tripoli, erupted after a former rebel soldier named Omran Shaaban was tortured to death while being held captive in the city. Shaaban is credited with having found Gadhafi in a drainage pipe in Sirte in October 2011.

On September 25, Libya's General National Congress ordered the Interior and Defense Ministries to find those responsible for Shaaban's death, mandating the use of military force if necessary.

Government-aligned militias, primarily from Misrata, began shelling Bani Walid last week. At least 22 people were killed and hundreds wounded in the violence. Local governance minister Mohamed al-Hrari said that 10,000 families had fled the fighting in Bani Walid for neighboring towns such as Tarhouna.

slk/ipj  (AFP, Reuters)