Five wounded as rival militias battle in Libya

Reuters News

11/5/2012 3:15:15 PM - Reuters News

By Hadeel Al Shalchi

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Rival militias aligned with the Libyan government fought a gun battle on Monday in a western city, wounding five people, a day after a similar battle brought a central Tripoli neighborhood to a halt, the head of a rights group said.

Abdel-Monem al-Hurr said armed groups in al-Khoms opened fire on each other after refusing to hand over a man wanted by the Supreme Security Committee (SSC), a body set up by the Interior Ministry last year.

The violence underscored the challenges faced by Libya's first freely elected government, approved last week, to rein in militias which gained power during the conflict that ousted Muammar Gaddafi last year. His 42-year rule held together a country riven with clan, regional and sectarian divisions.

Hurr, a former spokesman for the SSC and now head of the Libyan Arab Human Rights Organization, said he had called tribal elders together to help mediate the situation.

"The leaders of each side are rival members of the al-Zayed tribe of al-Khoms," he said. "One man refused to hand over a wanted person to the SSC and so they began to fight."

Hurr said the fighting had mostly died down after three hours.

The leaders in the battle each belonged to the SSC and Libya's Shield, umbrella groups for various armed groups that refused to join the official police or army, saying they were still run by Gaddafi loyalists.

"The SSC group in Khoms detained 10 people from the Libya Shield's armed group and set its base on fire," Hurr said.

Ahmed Juma, a nurse at the Khoms General Hospital, said five people were brought in suffering from gunshot wounds.

Monday's battle in the town 120 km (75 mile) east of Tripoli, came a day after militias fought a pitched battle in central Tripoli, injuring five people and damaging a hospital.

(Writing By Hadeel Al-Shalchi; Editing by Michael Roddy)