By Nihal Zaroug.
Tripoli, 2 December:
Order has been restored in the town of Salloum, the border crossing between Libya and Egypt, following clashes on Friday. Residents of Salloum clashed with Libyan authorities after residents from the Egyptian side reportedly threw stones onto the Libyan side. To disperse the crowd, shots were fired in the air by Libyan authorities. No injuries have been reported.
The recent escalation was due to the poor rapport between Libyan port officials and Egyptian nationals, with the latter claiming that Libyan officials treat them with little respect. In protest of the diminishing relationship and to pressure Egyptian officials to take action, on Saturday residents of Salloum closed the road that leads into Libya. Only travelers and families will be allowed through the border, while all goods en route to Libya will be stopped for three days.
If after these three days, no measures are taken to enhance the relationship between the two sides, the residents of Salloum will escalate the trade blockade.
For its part, the Egyptian security directorate for the Matrouh area has activated additional checkpoints along the route to Salloum, to prevent an accumulation of vehicles carrying goods at the border. Prior to the clashes, the security directorate was in the process of implementing greater trade controls, by banning the entry of certain foreign goods through the border, and enforcing stringent transit regulations. These new procedures were not welcome by locals and further exasperating the tense situation.
The Libya-Egyptian border was closed earlier last month, when similar clashes broke out between Libyan forces and Egyptian smugglers. It was reported that the attack took place after the 409 Battalion prevented a number of vehicles loaded with contraband from entering Libya. In retaliation, the smugglers resorted to violence in an attempt to pressure the Libyan side to concede.
In April, clashes turned deadly between protestors and Libyan army troops, over higher fees being imposed on trucks crossing into Libya. Two people were killed and others injured when troops fired on protestors who were trying to block the border crossing.