Libya militias resume fighting after ceasefire

Reuters

Posted at Mar 29 2012 07:05 AM | Updated as of Mar 29 2012 03:05 PM

TRIPOLI - Rival militias in the Libyan city of Sabha resumed fighting hours after calling a ceasefire on Wednesday, after three days of clashes that killed more than 50 people and highlight the government's failure to restore law and order nationwide.

Representatives from the Sabha and Tibu-dominated militias had held a meeting at which they had agreed to end the fighting, said Ahmed Abdelqadir, a local council member in Sabha.

But shooting resumed just a few hours later, Sabha fighter Oweidat al-Hifnawi said. "Some of those who lost their relatives in the clashes were not happy and fighting started again," he said by phone. "It's calmed down again but we can still hear some shooting."

The clashes began on Sunday after a row between the two groups over a car.

Local doctor Ibrahim Misbah said five people were killed and 31 injured in Wednesday's fighting. "The fighting has been on the outskirts of the city," he said.

An Interior Ministry official had said on Tuesday the army had sent some 600 soldiers to help calm the situation.

Government spokesman Nasser al-Manee told a news conference in Tripoli on Wednesday that 3,000 soldiers and border guards had been sent to the area.

"The army chief yesterday sent some 1,500 men from the Libyan army and border guards," he said. "Today, more than 1,500 others are on their way to Sabha ... and will be present in the city and its surrounding area in order to resolve the dispute and secure the area."

He said officials from various ministries were due to meet representatives from both sides on Wednesday evening.

The clashes were a reminder of how difficult the government is finding it to impose its authority across the country following the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Bereft of a genuine national army, the ruling National Transitional Council has struggled to persuade the many militias who fought Gaddafi to lay down their arms and join the armed forces and police.

Last month, dozens of people were killed in clashes between tribes in the far southeastern province of Al Kufra. Government forces eventually intervened to stop the fighting, in a rare example of the Tripoli government imposing its authority.