TAWERGHA, Libya — This town once loyal to Moammar Gadhafi is no more: its 25,000 residents have fled, fearing retribution from vengeful victors from the neighboring city of Misrata who have burned and ransacked homes, crossed out Tawergha's name on road signs and vowed not to let anyone return.
Tawergha, about 20 miles south of Misrata, is just one casualty of score-settling following Libya's 8-month civil war that ended with Gadhafi's Oct. 20 capture and death.
The country's interim leaders have appealed for restraint, but seem unable to control revolutionary forces whose recent vigilante acts, including the suspected killing of Gadhafi while in custody, have begun to tarnish their heroic image abroad.
However, people in Misrata, which was heavily damaged during the war, are in no mood for reconciliation. The port city of 300,000 rose up early against Gadhafi and came under a weekslong siege by Gadhafi fighters, many from Tawergha, which served as a staging ground for the loyalists. Nearly 1,300 Misrata residents were killed and thousands wounded in the fighting, city officials say.
Misrata officials accuse the Tawerghans, some of them descendants of African slaves, of particular brutality during the war, including alleged acts of rape and looting.
Ibrahim Beitelmal, spokesman for Misrata's military council, said Tawergha should be wiped off the map, but that the final decision is up to the national leadership. "If it was my decision, I would want to see Tawergha gone. It should not exist," said Beitelmal, whose 19-year-old son was killed in the fighting on Tripoli Street.
Human Rights Watch researchers say Tawergha homes have been vandalized since the town's capture. The group is to release an extensive report today.
War wounded flown to U.S.: A U.S. military plane flew more than 20 Libyans wounded in the civil war to the United States for treatment on Saturday. The Temporary Financing Mechanism, an internationally-established fund used by Libya's transitional government, said it would pay the hospital bills for over 3,000 patients to be treated Tunisia, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Jordan and the United States.
Syria: Three people were killed when troops shelled the city of Homs Saturday, activists said.