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Warfalla, Libya’s largest tribe

Deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is in Bani Walid, 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of the capital, Tripoli, planning a counter-attack, an interim authority military commander said.

Bani Walid is a stronghold of the powerful Warfalla tribe, which has been divided with respect to loyalties toward Qaddafi.

Here are some details about the Warfalla:

* Usually estimated to be Libya’s largest tribe with up to one million of the total population of about 6 million people.

* The Warfalla historically inhabited the area bounded by the towns of Bani Walid, Sirte, Sabha, and Benghazi.

* The Warfalla, together with the Qaddafa and the Magarha, were traditionally considered the pillars of Qaddafi’s rule, dominating the security services and the ranks of the military.

* In the case of the Warfalla, however, this support has been inconsistent, most notably in the mounting of a coup attempt by Warfalla members of Qaddafi’s government in 1993, as a result of their rivalry with the Magarha for top positions within the government.

The failure of the coup attempt to overthrow Qaddafi resulted in a temporary decline of Warfalla influence in the Libyan power structure, as many leading members were purged and eventually executed.

* Akram al-Warfelli, a leading figure of the tribe, called for Qaddafi to stand down in late February 2011. “We tell the brother, he’s no longer a brother, we tell him to leave the country,” he told an Arab TV channel.

* In late May, over 100 tribal leaders, most of them Warfalla, met to call for an end to the fighting in Libya and the removal of Qaddafi.

* The Warfalla are unlikely to act under a unified leadership when the tribe is actually more a confederacy of around 50 sub-tribes spread across Libya, each with its own local leaders, local concerns and varying degrees of affiliation or loyalty to the old Qaddafi leadership.