Scores have been killed and injured over the past 24 hours in fierce tribal warfare between two rival groups in Libya’s remote south-eastern area, with rockets, mortars and gunfire raining down on residential areas in the desert town of al-Kufra.
Libya’s new government is struggling to rein in armed groups contesting power in the wake of dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in October. Fighting between two ethnic groups – the Arab Zwai and the African Tebu, who complained of discrimination under Gaffafi, – broke out 10 days ago, according to the BBC.
More than 100 people from both groups have been killed in al-Kufra since the fighting began on February 12, the Agence France Presse reported, with most of the casualties coming from the Tebu tribe. Hundreds of families are fleeing towards northern cities.
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Al-Kufra is about 2,000 kilometers from the capital Tripoli, and lies in the border area where Libya, Chad and Sudan meet. The region is hub for the smuggling of people, drugs and another goods, according to the Associated Press.
Smaller Arab tribes have fallen behind the Zwai against the Tebu, with both sides blaming each other for starting the fighting, according to Reuters.
A Zwai security official claimed that al-Kufra came under attack by Tebu militiamen backed by mercenaries from Chad, while the Tebu say they were the first to come under fire.
Libya’s defence ministry has said on several occasions that it has sent troops to stop the fighting, but witnesses say those forces have not intervened to halt the clashes.
Amnesty International issued a report last week sharply criticizing the country's militias, saying they had become "out of control" since Gaddafi's ousting and are "threatening to destabilize Libya."
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