Libyan army clashes with southern militia, 2 dead

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2012 7:28 AM
Libyan army clashes with southern militia, 2 dead

By Ali Shuaib

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Two people were killed and 15 injured in clashes between Libyan soldiers and tribesmen in the remote southeastern desert, a regional community leader said Saturday.

The fighting underlined the internal disorder and surfeit of uncontrolled weapons continuing to afflict Libya eight months after longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by rebels.

The armed forces were sent to al Kufra, near Libya's borders with Chad and Sudan, in February to quell fighting arising from long-standing rivalry between the Tibu and Zwai tribes, posing a fresh challenge to Libya's transitional leadership.

An army spokesman who declined to be named said the fighting began when the Tibu in Kufra found one of their men killed on the street on Thursday. The Tibu blamed the national army and attacked one of their bases.

Hussein Shakai, head of the Kufra community centre, said two people had been killed and 15 wounded in the clashes.

He said troops had surrounded Tibu neighborhoods in Kufra, some 1,100 km (680 miles) south of Tripoli, and were not allowing people to enter banks or schools there.

Long-standing rivalries, divided communities and plentiful weapons are plaguing Libya as the interim government struggles to impose its authority and secure peace among the vast oil-producing country's ethnic groups.

Bouts of violence in the southern Sahara and in the mountainous west have shown how volatile Libya remains following the demise of Gaddafi, who had long played off one tribe or clan against the other to weaken their power.

The Tibu tribe lives mainly in Chad but also inhabits parts of southern Libya. In February, the Zwai tribe accused the Tibu of attacking Al Kufra, backed by mercenaries from Chad.

The Tibu said it was they who had come under attack.

The remote southeast has a history of violence involving tribes. A tribal rebellion in 2009 was suppressed only after Gaddafi sent in helicopter gunships.

(Reporting by Ali Shuaib; Writing By Hadeel Al-Shalchi; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Vicki Allen)


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