Dozens killed in southeast Libya clashes

2012-02-17 11:25

Tripoli - Dozens of people have been killed since last week in clashes between rival tribes over control of territory in the far southeast of Libya, the tribes said on Thursday.

Violence broke out late last week in the remote city of Al Kufra and has continued since, highlighting the challenge of policing the country's sparsely populated desert.

Libya's ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) has struggled to assert its authority across the whole of Libya as rival regional militias and tribal groups jostle for power and resources following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Local gunmen from the Zwai tribe have been clashing with fighters from the Tibu ethnic group led by Isa Abdel Majid, whom they accuse of attacking Al Kufra backed by mercenaries from Chad, according to a security official from the Zwai tribe.

"The situation is still complicated today. The Tibu attacked the city with mortars and there were snipers," Abdelbari Idriss, the security official from the Zwai tribe, told Reuters, adding that the Tibu had received reinforcements from other desert towns.

He said 15 people on his side had been killed and 45 injured. "Thirteen were buried yesterday, two today."

The Tibu, however, said they were the ones to come under attack.

Mohammed Laban, from the Tibu tribe and a representative of a citizen group in Al Kufra, said the death toll among the Tibu had reached 55, and more than 100 had been injured. He said the Tibu had asked the NTC for help.

"There is a crisis here. There are no doctors, there is no water. Shops are closed," he said by phone. "The number of injured is 117. We couldn't get to the airport because it is under control of the Zwai and we would like the NTC to help by sending helicopters to take our injured to hospitals."

Hub for smugglers

It was not possible to independently verify the reports.

The Tibu are mainly found in Chad but also inhabit parts of southern Libya, Sudan and Niger, often crisscrossing unmarked desert borders. Abdel Majid's men supported the Libyan rebels during the 2011 uprising that ousted Gaddafi.

"We are being attacked because they say we are not Libyan, but we are Libyan," said Al Kufra resident Mohammed Sanussi. He said the Zwai were getting reinforcements from other areas.

Mohammed Al-Alagy, head of Libya's freedom and human rights council, said his group was looking into the violence.

"After that, we will transfer the report to the NTC to let them take the necessary steps," he told reporters.

In Al Kufra, tribal ties are far more powerful than they are on the country's Mediterranean seaboard. A tribal rebellion in 2009 was suppressed only after Gaddafi sent in helicopter gunships. The remote region is also a hub for smugglers taking advantage of the lawless borders of sub-Saharan Africa.

The province surrounding Al Kufra is Libya's largest and straddles the borders of Sudan and Chad. The roads in the region are poor, and some reports said the airport was out of use due to the fighting, possibly holding up any aid.

  • kenneth.mthethwa - 2012-02-17 11:59

    Where are the Americans now?

      Fred - 2012-02-17 19:44

      What a dumb comment.

      Fred - 2012-02-21 23:46

      What a dumb Patrick :)

  • Craig - 2012-02-17 12:40

    Thank you UN / NATO of de-stabalising a country and culture that you know nothing about ... I bet all those dying and suffering would rather have their old leader back, and be able to carry on with their lives...

      Anthony - 2012-02-17 13:08

      You will get a handful of ,"thumbs up" , here on this site, but in Libya you would get MILLIONS of "thumbs down" The only ones who want this dog back, are the ones who are misguided, and have their own programs....

      Fred - 2012-02-17 19:48

      Yeah right. It's all very well spouting immature nonsense from wherever you are in South Africa. What about the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions that deposed dictators there who had the good sense to step down? What about Moamar Gaddafi's crazy rantings and threats, followed by real action, that saw the deaths of thousands of Libyans, the rape, detention and maiming of tens of thousands more? What about the Arab League representing 350 million Middle Eastern Muslims who demanded intervention from the world? What about the painstaking focus on limiting intervention to Gaddafi's military capability, to prevent him from following through with his threats in ways more than he had done already? Yes, it's all very well spouting reactionary nonsense from your American keyboard. Grow up and become informed.

      Fred - 2012-02-21 23:49

      The way the USA is destroying the world. Yeah right. Get real. The US wants free markets and greater human freedom. It is grappling with what the latter means, going through its own internal debates on things like gay marriage (which should obviously be legal). But there's no doubt the US is the most free nation on Earth, relatively speaking. The goal is freedom with responsibility, always. Freedom without responsibility is tyranny, very well shown to us by the despotic regimes the world over.

  • modgomo - 2012-02-21 11:51

    Is this the peace and freedom that they were being deprived by Gaddafi?

      Fred - 2012-02-21 23:51

      No, it's tribal conflict that occurred while Gaddafi was in power too, illegitimate power in which Libyans were not allowed to vote. Remember Apartheid?

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