Tripoli, April 2: Fresh clashes are reported to have broken out this afternoon on the road to Rigdaleen east of Zuara . . .[restrict]between Zuaran forces and fighters from Al-Jmail and Rigdaleen.
“The fighting started around 4.00pm,” said Ayoob Sufyan from the Zuara Media Centre, adding that five Zuarans had been injured.
“It was calm this morning but this afternoon it became serious,” he said.
“At the moment we’re taking a defensive position, but we’re having to use mortars and missiles. They were attacking Zuara from both sides,” he said, adding that “we went out and attacked them just once today so that their missiles would not hit the centre of the city”.
There was fighting on Sunday night between the two sides after 25 Zuaran militiamen captured by Al-Jmail forces were released. The actual cause of Sunday’s clashes is unclear.
“We discovered that the captured men were brutally tortured,” claimed Sufyan. “Some say that as a result, some Zuaran fighters were very angry and went to the front line started to fire at Al-Jmail. Others say that fighters from Al-Jmail fired first. I don’t know which is correct,” the media centre spokesman said.
However, local Zuara engieneer Abu Shenouga said that the clashes started when the fighters from the town attacked Al-Jmail after the release of the fighters. He said the clashes lasted a few hours and then after an uneasy calm that lasted several hours, restarted again only to end a couple of hours later.
He added that the problem between the two towns was not the capture of the fighters but was due to an age-old animosity. He said that the issue should be solved within two days.
Rivalry between the two places is longstanding.
The clashes, added Shenouga, were not between the towns but between people. There were many supporting the revolution in both Al-Jmail and Rigdaleen. “We cannot blame all the people for the acts of few,” he added. He said that both Rigdaleen and Al-Jmail had attacked Zuara during the revolution but that there were no incidents after the revolutionaries took control of the area, shortly after the liberation of Tripoli.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense has confirmed the clashes but denied any Qaddafi connection. “I can confirm that there were no green flags, there were no loyalists. There are a couple of casualties but the situation is stable. The forces will be sent by tomorrow to maintain law and order. We will send a couple of flights tomorrow morning.”
Sufyan said that a team from the interior ministry had already been to Zuara and tired to get its forces to stop fighting.
“They asked us to calm down. We told them: ‘We asked you for help before to get rid the weapons Qaddafi gave to Al-Jmail’. They did nothing. They are pretending everything is all right. It’s not true. All the government is doing is denying everything,” he said.
“We have given the officials until 10am tomorrow to do something about them [Al-Jmail]. If not, we will stop being defensive and we will attack. It’s going to be a real war. The fighters are really tired and depressed.”
The fighting does not seem to have affected the traffic on the Libyan-Tunisian border. According to the Tunsisian news agency TAP, 5,000 Libyans crossed the border at Ras Jedir on Sunday night/Monday morning. It said that over the 24-hour period from Sunday morning, between 10,000 and 15,000 Libyans had crossed.
However, the head of Libyan immigration police at the border contacted by Libya Herald on Monday said “We are closed. We’re just letting Tunisians through”.
Additional Reporting By Umar Khan and Ashraf Abdul Wahab