Death toll from south Libya tribal clashes hits 86

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Associated Press

Posted on January 23, 2014 at 1:32 PM

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — At least 86 people have been killed in fierce clashes in southern Libya over the past two weeks between tribes, government forces and former loyalists of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, a top hospital official said on Thursday.

Abdullah Wahida, the head of Sabha Hospital, said at least 128 people also have been wounded in violence that saw the hospital shelled.

The clashes in Sabha, one of Gadhafi's traditional strongholds, were sparked by a revenge attack by African-origin Tabu tribesmen against a militia commander of the Arab Awlad Sulieman tribe.

It was the last city to fall in hands of rebels who fought an eight-month civil war against Gadhafi's forces in 2011. It also is the last major city in Libya's far south and lies on a key road leading to the border with Niger. Gadhafi's death and his allied Arab tribes losing power have seen the Tabu gain control over the borders.

The Tabu suffered discrimination under Gadhafi's rule.

In March 2012, clashes between Tabu and Arab tribes left scores dead, many of them residents of impoverished Tabu areas which came under heavy shelling. Mediators reached a cease-fire under the condition that Arabs hand in men involved in the killings to Libyan authorities but Tabu tribal leaders said no one was handed over, fueling anger and sparking the latest round of clashes.

Meanwhile, security officials in the city said that former Gadhafi loyalists seized control over a local military base, propelling the government to send its forces and arrest a number of them.

The unrest in the south also is linked to the general state of lawlessness in Libya, where successive transitional governments have largely failed to disarm and integrate rebel militias.

Eastern militia leaders took over oil terminals, leaving the country's main source of revenue at risk. In the capital, embattled Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan is locked in a political crisis with Islamists in parliament.

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