Libya army clashes with southern militia, 2 killed

TRIPOLI Sat Jun 9, 2012 8:43am EDT

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Two people were killed and several injured in clashes between Libyan soldiers and tribesmen in the remote southeast, a local doctor and tribal representative said, underlining the unrest still raging seven months after Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow.

Violence erupted in the early hours of Saturday in the city of Al Kufra, near Libya's borders with Chad and Sudan, where armed forces were sent to in February to quell fighting in a long-standing rivalry between the Tibu and Zwai tribes.

Bouts of violence in the southern Sahara and in the mountainous west have shown how volatile Libya remains following the demise of Gaddafi, who had long played off one tribe or clan against the other to weaken their power.

"The Tibu launched an attack on the city, the army responded and fighting is continuing," Muftah Abukhalil, a member of the local council, said by phone, without giving details. He said two people were injured in the violence.

Hussein Shakai, a Tibu representative, said it was the Tibu who had come under attack in the city, around 1,100 kms (680 miles) southeast of the capital Tripoli.

"One Tibu was killed and five were injured," he said.

Taher Abubark, a doctor at the local hospital, said one person was killed and five injured. "At a clinic in Gadervi, there are four injured," he said referring to a Tibu area.

National army official Sharif Al-Mayar confirmed the fighting but said he did not have full details.

"We are looking into this," he said. "The state should be doing its job and carrying out an investigation."

Long-standing rivalries, divided communities and plentiful weapons are plaguing Libya as the interim government struggles to impose its authority and secure peace among the vast oil-producing country's ethnic groups.

The Tibu tribe lives mainly in Chad but also inhabits parts of southern Libya. In February, the Zwai tribe accused the Tibu of attacking Kufra, backed by mercenaries from Chad. The Tibu said it was they who had come under attack.

The remote southeast has a history of violence involving tribes. A tribal rebellion in 2009 was suppressed only after Gaddafi sent in helicopter gunships.

(Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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