TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Clashes between two Libyan militias in the country’s southernmost desert killed one person and injured 13 on Monday, officials said, underlining the unrest and ethnic tensions still raging eight months after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.
Fighting first erupted on Saturday after the Libya’s Shield militia, an Arab force from the northern coastal city of Benghazi, travelled south to the mostly non-Arab area near Libya’s southern borders with Chad and Sudan to reinforce the army.
An army spokesman, who asked not to be named, told Reuters violence broke out in the city of al Kufra after the area’s non-Arab Tibu tribe found one of its members dead in the street and blamed the army.
There was a pause in the violence on Sunday but fighting broke out again in the centre of Kufra on Monday, said local officials.
Hussein Shakai, from the Tibu tribe and head of the Kufra community centre, told Reuters Libya’s Shield fighters attacked Tibu neighbourhoods with rockets, leaving at least six houses burned to the ground. The Tibu then retaliated, he said.
Abdel Bari Idris, head of the Supreme Security Committee of Kufra, said that the army was not involved in the fighting and had retreated from the area.
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.
The remote southeast has a history of tribal violence and rebellion in 2009 was suppressed, only after Gaddafi sent in helicopter gunships. Gaddafi his grip on power, partly by playing off one tribe or clan against another.
The armed forces were sent to Kufra, 1,100 km (680 miles) south of Tripoli, in February to quell fighting between the Tibu and another tribe in the area.
The Tibu tribe lives mainly in Chad but also inhabits parts of southern Libya.