By Ashraf Abdul Wahab.
Tripoli, 10 November:
Normal service has resumed at the Libya-Egypt border crossing following a prolonged and violent confrontation between . . .[restrict]border guards and Egyptian smugglers from the Matrouh region on Wednesday.
The incident saw members of the 409 Battalion of Libyan border guards being pelted with stones and private cars returning from Egypt attacked.
Libyan security officials have said that nobody was seriously injured over the course of clashes that lasted for about seven hours, and that they had sought to disperse the assailants by firing in the air. However, one of the smugglers has reportedly claimed that two Egyptians were wounded during the incident.
According to a security source, the attack took place after the 409 Battalion prevented a number of vehicles loaded with contraband from entering Libya the previous day. He believed that the smugglers had resorted to violence by way of retaliation and perhaps to put pressure on the Libyan side to acquiesce.
The source added that the border guards had done their best to stay calm and patient, but eventually chased the smugglers away from the border into Egypt after the violence got out of hand and slogans defaming the Libyan revolution began to be chanted.
Smuggling between Egypt and Libya has been a growing problem in the past year, in particular given the upsurge in the availability of arms as a result of last year’s uprising.
Border officials have complained that the situation is made worse by the fact that residents of the Matrouh region do not require a visa to enter Libya at present. They say that the lax regulations encourage increased smuggling and have called on the Libyan authorities to impose visa restrictions on Matrouh residents, as is the case with other Egpytians, to help redress the problem. [/restrict]