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Libya’s ‘non state’: Tribal war claims 70 lives

Published time: March 28, 2012 07:47
Edited time: March 29, 2012 00:42

An injured fighter receives treatment at Sabha Hospital after rival militias clashed at the city of Sabha (Reuters / Stringer)

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70 have been killed and dozens injured in Libya as tribal groups are fighting in the country’s south. After the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is left in a condition which some residents call a ‘non state’.

The fighting between rival armed militias, ongoing since Sunday, has spilled into the center of Libya’s third largest city of Sabha on Tuesday. The country’s National Transitional Council initially sent out 300 of its troops to calm the situation but the contingent had to be reinforced two-fold, Reuters said.

However, there are reports that the national army may have retreated from the city.  "We know that they are here to try to solve the problem and not fight," Sabha fighter Oweidat al-Hifnawi told the agency. "There are unconfirmed reports that they have retreated out of the city."

The fighting resulted in the resignation of an NTC representative to Sabha, Abdulmajid Saif al-Nasser. He said that he was leaving his post as the council proved unable, or unwilling, to curb the violence.

"I have not seen any reaction from the Council to what is happening now in Sabha. The air force has not been sent out, there was only a plane from the health ministry carrying medicine," he said. "The state is supposed to intervene in these cases but there is no state."

The ongoing fighting started after a man from the Tubu tribe allegedly killed a member of the Sabha tribe. The country’s Health Ministry confirmed that most of the 70 dead, already killed in the clashes, perished from gunshot and shrapnel wounds. 160 more have been left injured. 

Local officials have said that an effort to secure a truce between the Tubu and Sabha tribes was underway Wednesday. However, some members of the Tubu tribe claimed they were still facing a “massacre.”

Tubu chief Issa Abdel Majid Mansur earlier accused Libyan authorities of using warplanes and tanks against his community. Mansur warned that the Tubu could try to secede from Libya.

We announce the reactivation of the Tubu Front for the Salvation of Libya to protect the Tubu people from ethnic cleansing,” Mansur said. “If necessary, we will demand international intervention and work towards the creation of a state, as in South Sudan.

The National Transitional Council, which came to power after the ouster of the country’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi, is struggling to establish its control over the whole of Libya. The council is trying to persuade tribal militias, busy with fighting over power and resources in the uncontrolled country, to lay down their arms and join national army and police. 

The lawlessness Libya has plunged into is the direct result of how the current government came into power, Oxford-based freelance journalist Neil Clark told RT.

“The main problem is that Libya is awash with arms. And who is to blame for this? It’s the Western powers, who gave these arms to the rebels to topple Gaddafi. And now you have different tribal militias all heavily armed. You have got a very week divided government in Tripoli, which cannot control its territory. You have got a real recipe for anarchy at the moment,” he explained.

“The main Western news channels are not covering the story the way they are not covering Iraq. In the end of the story Gaddafi is gone, and they are really not interested in reporting what’s going on, which is a human rights catastrophe,” he added.

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