Tripoli, 22 May:
More than 40 trucks tried to force their way from Libya into Tunisia at the Ras Jedir border crossing . . .[restrict]on Monday evening. According to the Tunisian News Agency, the trucks had no licence plates. Following an altercation between the drivers and Tunisian customs officials in which a number of the latter were said to have been physically abused, the Tunisian army was called in to deal with the matter. The border crossing was temporarily closed as a result.
The incident comes just days after the Libya and Tunisia agreed to beef up border security. In talks on Friday between Libyan Chief of Staff Yousuf Mangoush and Tunisian Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, both sides highlighted the urgent need to improve border patrols and, in particular, deal with smuggling.
Mangoush was in Tunis with the visiting Libyan ministerial delegation led by Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib.
Smuggling in both directions — petrol and weapons into Tunisia and foodstuffs and phosphates into Libya — is viewed as the main cause of criminality on both side of the border as well as of instability in many parts Libya.
The clashes in April between Zuara, Rigdaleen and Al-Jmail were seen by many observers as primarily over smuggling rivalries. Until recently, Zuara militiamen controlled the Libyan side of the Ras Jedir crossing and were able to let through anything they wanted. Indeed, it is viewed as no coincidence that most of the flashpoints in Libya this year are either points of entry, such as Tripoli airport, or locations on trade routes where smugglers are based, such as Kufra and Sebha.
This is not the first time that vehicles have tried to force their way through the Ras Jedir crossing. At the beginning of last month, for three consecutive days, a total of 80 trucks carrying Tunisian fertilizers drove through the post at high speed, forcing customs guards out the way. [/restrict]