Gadhafi loyalists seize villages based on earlier tribal loyalties

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BENGHAZI, Libya — Moammar Gadhafi loyalists seized control of a Libyan mountain city in the most serious challenge to the central government since the strongman’s fall, underlining the increasing weakness of Libya’s Western-backed rulers as they try to unify the country under their authority.

The taking of Bani Walid, one of the last Gadhafi strongholds captured by the new leadership late last year, was the first such organized operation by armed remnants of Gadhafi’s regime. A simultaneous outbreak of shootings in the capital and Libya’s second largest city Benghazi raised authorities’ concerned that other networks of loyalists were active elsewhere.

The security woes add to the difficulties of the ruling National Transitional Council, which is struggling to establish its authority and show Libyans progress in stability and good government. Four revolutionary fighters were killed and 25 others were wounded in the fighting, al-Fatmani said.

There were no immediate signs that the uprising was part of some direct attempt to restore the family of Gadhafi, who was swept out of power in August and then killed in the nearby city of Sirte in October. His sons, daughter and wife have been killed, arrested or have fled to neighboring countries.

Instead, the fighting seemed to reflect a rejection of NTC control by a city that never deeply accepted its rule, highlighting the still unresolved tensions between those who benefited under Gadhafi’s regime and those now in power.