Residents returning to Sirte are accusing Libyan interim government fighters of demolishing and looting homes, shops and public buildings in Moammar Gadhafi’s home town to take revenge for its support of the fugitive leader.
“They envy and hate us because Moammar is from here. But we are just civilians. The revolutionaries are coming here for revenge and destruction,” said a Sirte resident who did not want to be named. “We didn’t resist in this neighborhood so why did they destroy our homes?”
Inspecting the damage to her house, she said that Sirte would never go back to how it used to be. “There is no security here anymore,” she told Reuters.
Doors were broken, clothes strewn across the floor, furniture knocked over. The smoke lingering over the city from the continued fighting could be seen through a hole in the wall.
Several residents said that looting had made them bitter toward the revolution that ended Gadhafi’s 42-year rule. Some saw it as a way to even the score with them for living relatively comfortably under the ousted leader.
“Are you coming to liberate the city or to steal from it?” said Ahmed, another resident, inside his house. “If I knew this would happen I would not have left. I would have stayed and fought for my house.”
Many residents who fled the fighting have been returning to the town now that forces loyal to the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) have hemmed still resisting Gadhafi loyalists into a small area.
They found almost every house and building either damaged by a rocket or mortar, burned out or riddled with bullets. Water floods the streets and the city’s infrastructure is in tatters.
“What’s happening in Sirte is revenge not liberation. When someone comes and takes your personal car and destroys your home, this is not liberation,” said Abu Anas, a Sirte resident who returned to his house to pick up belongings and found that it had been looted.
“What are they liberating us from? We want Moammar,” shouted another female resident standing nearby as other locals gathered, each loudly lambasting the new government.
“Some revolutionaries passed by us when we were sitting outside the house and told us ‘wait, you didn’t see anything yet’,” Mohammed, another Sirte resident said.