|"Smoke rises from a road in the southern Libyan town of Sabha." (AFP/Getty Images)|
Associated Press dispatch in The Guardian, March 31, 2012
"Six days of tribal clashes in a remote desert town in southern Libya have killed 147 people, the country's health minister has said. Fatima al-Hamroush said in Tripoli on Saturday that the fighting in Sabha has also left 395 wounded and 180 people have been transported to the capital Tripoli for emergency treatment. The clashes in the oasis region some 400 miles south of Tripoli highlight the fragile authority of the Libyan government, particularly in the isolated settlements that dot the southern desert. With only a nascent national army and police force, Libya's ruling National Transitional Council relies on militias composed of former rebels to keep the peace, and the country's vast distances make it difficult to deploy them to trouble spots. Muammar Gaddafi's 40 years in power have left behind a patchwork of local rivalries. The Sabha fighting pits southern Libyan Arab tribes that reportedly had close connections to Gaddafi against the African Tabu tribe, which fought against him. Sabha residents said that the rivalry burst into open conflict on Monday after a Tabu shot a member of the Arab Abu Seif tribe, and then a delegation of Tabu elders and armed men was ambushed on its way to peace talks. The Tabu and Arab tribes fought in another oasis region, Kufra, in February, and Sabha residents said the two groups exchanged fire using automatic rifles, mortars and rockets. A spokesman for the Tabu, Mohammed Lino, said that about 70 Tabu homes were burnt and 100 families had been forced to flee the city during the past week of violence.