By Libya Herald staff.
Benghazi, 20 February 2015:
The Libya army today again told remaining residents in Benghazi’s Gwarsha and Gunfudah districts in . . .[restrict]the southwest of the city to evacuate their homes, warning them that fighting was going to be heavy fighting and fresh air strikes there.
Those who could not leave should stay indoors, away from windows, and have absolutely no contact with the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council, the umbrella group comprising of Ansar Al-Sharia and its allies. Any building being used by snipers would be targeted, the army said.
As Ansar’s hold over its former stronghold of Leithi slowly weakens, the two districts are its remaining main bastions in the city, with the small Elmresa port at Gunfudah being used by Ansar to bring in arms and gunmen, allegedly from Misrata.
Meanwhile in the city’s Buhdeima district, local vigilantes are being left to their own devices to secure it and prevent Ansar returning.
“There is not much presence here of Saiqa or other battalions,” Walid told the Libya Herald. He has been helping other locals keep the peace in the district.
“It’s not like Leithi. There, you can see Saiqa and 204 Brigade in action,” he said. “Here, it is just an occasional patrol. They come and go. The last time was two days ago.”
There are between 300 and 400 young men in the local vigilante group, according to Walid. They were manning some ten checkpoints in the neighbourhood and at the main road into it, off the highway.
But the vigilantes were not particularly organised, he admitted. “It’s not very well coordinated. It’s a bit like the rebels at the beginning of the revolution. It’s mostly young with guns. There are no specific leaders. Everyone does what he can.”
Those entering the area are fully checked. If anyone is considered suspect, the checkpoint guards “force them out”, he explained. The last actual shooting at a checkpoint had been a week ago. No one had been injured, Walid said, but his cousin had been killed by sniper when Ansar attacked Buhdeima three weeks ago.
But although there are no clashes in the neighbourhood, people have been injured as a result of mortars hitting it. They had been fired by Ansar, Walid claimed. Even so, not many have left. “People are staying,” he said.
But there are no Ansar members of supporters there now. Anyone sympathetic to Ansar had gone, he stated.
Residents in another part of Benghazi today were taking somewhat more decisive action to rid themselves of the last vestiges of Ansar support in the area. Two shops in East Salmani belonging to families whose sons had joined Ansar were set on fire and destroyed. [/restrict]