Fourteen killed in west Libya militia clashes
By Ali Shuaib
TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Rival Libyan militias armed with heavy weapons clashed for the third straight day on Wednesday in fighting that has killed 14 people, underscoring the country’s volatility months after Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow.
The clashes southwest of the capital pitted fighters from the town of Zintan, who played a big role in ousting Gaddafi, against members of the El-Mashashia tribe, who chose not to join the rebellion, security officials said.
Resentment between the two groups spilled over into fighting in December last year, when at least four people were killed, and erupted again this week when a Zintan fighter was shot dead.
Zintan’s militias blamed the El-Mashashia tribe and retaliated, leading to the current flareup that started on Monday, several members of the tribe said.
Government spokesman Nasser El-Manee said 14 people had been killed in the fighting and 89 injured. He said there was a national army force in area to try to restore calm.
“Creating stability is the responsibility of all,” El-Manee told a news conference on Wednesday.
Gaddafi’s repressive rule kept in check the deep-running animosities in Libyan society, which often pitted villages, cities or tribes against their neighbours.
When Gaddafi was forced from power and later killed last year, old feuds re-surfaced. The flareups of violence, mostly in the southern Sahara and in the mountainous west, have shown how little authority the interim government has over a myriad of armed groups.
Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council, and its Western backers, hope the tribal violence will not jeopardise a July 7 election to choose a national assembly.
Khaled Ahmed Albdelkarim, from Zintan, said two people from the Zintan side had been killed on Tuesday. “The clashes are continuing today,” he said by phone.
Eleven people on the El-Mashashia side were killed on Tuesday, and one on Wednesday, said Taher Salim, a member of the tribe.
Ali Mohammed Bilgazim, a member of the local council of Mizdah, which is close to the fighting, said Grad rockets could be heard from the area.
Another bout of violence last week flared up in southern town of Al Kufra near the borders with Chad and Sudan.
El-Manee said 19 people were killed there and 75 injured.