Tripoli, March 27: There is an uneasy calm in the southern city of Sebha after fresh inter-ethnic violence on Tuesday claimed . . .[restrict]the lives of at least another five people. The fighting has pitted local Tebu militiamen against the Sebha militia and government forces.
Tuesday’s clashes followed the arrival in Sebha of pro-government troops who clashed with Tebu fighters in the city.
According to a Tebu spokesman in Sebha, speaking to Libya Herald, the fighting started on Monday after a Sebha man was killed on his farm the pervious day. “Nobody knows who killed him”, the spokesman said on conditions on anonymity. He believed the crime had been as a result of a personal grudge rather than being politically motivated.
However, Mousa al-Koni, the Tuareg representative on the NTC, has reportedly said that that the clashes followed an attempt by Tebu fighters to steal a car belonging to a member of the Sebha militia. The NTC member for Sebha, Abdul-Majid Seif Annasser, said the man was an electricity company employee and that he was seized along with car before being killed. The vehicle was still being sought.
Fighting then broke out between the Tebu and the local militia. A number of government buildings and local vehicles have been damaged in the clashes.
According to the Tebu spokesman, the fighting happened when the Tebu and the local militia were called to meeting on Monday to resolve the issue. “Someone opened fire inside the meeting hall,” he said, killing three Tebus. The fighting then spread around the town, including the airport.
Others dispute this, saying that Tebu snipers started shooting in the town.
There were also differing reports as to the number of killed and injured on Monday. According to Deputy Interior Minister Umar Khadrawi, speaking on TV last night, there were eight were dead and 15 wounded, but a doctor working in Sebha hospital, Ibrahim Misbah, was reported by Reuters as saying that 20 had been killed and more than 30 injured. The Tebu spokesman said that a total of between seven and nine Tebus had died in the fighting and that altogether 15 people had been killed.
A reconciliation committee is being formed to end the violence.
Last month saw a series of clashes in Kufra involving the Tebu minority and the majority Arab Zway tribe in the town, which left as many as 130 people reportedly dead. There has been no independent verification of the number.
The fighting has stopped but the town is still very much divided into two armed camps. The Tebu area is effectively a no-go area for Libyan forces. Last week, when journalists visiting the town tried to enter what is in effect an barricaded Tebu ghetto they were barred by Tebu militiamen, apparently because they were accompanied by armed government forces.