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Gaddafi loyalists attack Libya town

Forces loyal to Libya's late leader Muammar Gaddafi have attacked the former regime stronghold of Bani Walid, killing at least four fighters from the new government, according to officials and residents.

The fierce clashes in the town, 90 miles south east of Tripoli, came as Libya's new leaders struggle to stamp out lingering resistance from pro-Gaddafi forces and unify a deeply fractured country after eight months of civil war and more than 40 years of authoritarian rule.

Mahmoud al-Warfali, a spokesman for the new regime in Bani Walid, said up to 150 pro-Gaddafi fighters raised his old green Libyan flag at the northern gate of the town and were battling revolutionary forces in the streets with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s.

"These are Gaddafi remnants who tried to take over the city," said Mr al-Warfali. "They have tried to do this before and take over the interim government's office, but thank God we have been able to fight them off."

He said four revolutionary fighters were killed. He did not know how many people were wounded.

Bani Walid resident Moussa al-Warfali said the clashes began when Gaddafi loyalists angry over the arrest of one of their men attacked revolutionary fighters in the town. The fighting was centred around the revolutionary brigade's base, but has since spread to other parts of the town.

The clashes are considered serious enough that dozens of revolutionary fighters from Tripoli have been dispatched to Bani Walid to help, said brigade commander Saddam Abdel-Zein.

Revolutionary commanders in Tripoli also said "sleeper cells" loyal to Gaddafi opened fire in the capital in an attempt to take advantage of the fighting in Bani Walid. There was no word of casualties.

Even after Gaddafi's capture and killing in October, the city and its surrounding region have troubled Libya's new leaders.

In November, 15 soldiers were killed in an ambush by Gaddafi loyalists just outside the town. Revolutionary fighters in Bani Walid have complained that the country's interim government has done little to help secure the city.

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