* Third day of fighting between neighbours near western town
* Violence a test for the fragile government
* Ethnic and tribal conflicts rocking Libyan stability (Updates with death
toll, interior minister)
By Taha Zargoun
TRIPOLI, April 3 (Reuters) - A flare-up of fighting between rival militias
in the west of Libya has killed 14 people, the country's interim leadership
said on Tuesday, and officials announced the despatch of a force to restore
The clashes, between members of the Berber ethnic minority and their Arab
neighbours around the town of Zuwara, are a fresh test for the government
which has struggled to assert its authority since a revolt last year ended
Muammar Gaddafi's rule.
Militias from inside the predominantly Berber town, about 120 km (75 miles)
west of the Libyan capital, were exchanging mortars and large-calibre fire
with fighters from the nearby Arab settlements of Al-Jumail and Regdalin for
a third day.
The fighting around Zuwara, on the Mediterranean coast, is typical of the
kind of tribal and ethnic conflicts that have flared up since Gaddafi's
In most cases the violence is the result of a toxic mix of vendettas that
have been simmering for generations, the huge quantity of weapons in
circulation since the revolt, and the lack of a strong central authority.
"There are heavy clashes at the entrance to Regdalin, (and) heavy bombing
from Al-Jumail on Zuwara," Iyoub Sofian, from the Zuwara local council, told
Reuters by telephone.
He said representatives from the national army had tried to broker a
ceasefire on Monday, but it did not hold.
Mohammed al-Harizy, a spokesman for the National Transitional Council (NTC),
told a news conference that four people from Zuwara were killed and 10 from
the opposing side.
He also said 80 people had been injured on both sides and the fighting
Fawzi Abdel A'al, the Interior Minister, earlier told reporters his men
"We have prepared a force of 200 men from the Interior Ministry which has
been directed to the region," he said in Tripoli. A'al said he was also
coordinating with the national army for a contingent of troops to be sent to
"I am asking the two sides to restrain themselves ... because there will be
no winner in this battle," he said.
It was not clear though whether the national government could muster an
effective force. It is still building its security forces. In the past it
has had to request help from friendly militias to restore order because its
own units were not up to the job.
From inside Zuwara, Sofian said two sides were exchanging mortar fire and
anti-aircraft rounds from guns adapted to shoot at targets on the ground
"We stopped firing, but Al-Jumail and Regdalin did not stop the bombing, so
we received orders to attack," Sofian said.
It was not immediately possible to contact fighters in Al-Jumail or
Zuwara lies on the main highway linking Tripoli to neighbouring Tunisia, a
vital supply route for the Libyan capital.
An Interior Ministry official told Reuters the confrontation had started on
Sunday when a group of Zuwara men hunting for game accidentally shot someone
from Al-Jumail. They were briefly detained, angering people in Zuwara.
In another confrontation that has underlined Libya's fragility, about 150
people were killed in clashes over the past week between rival tribes in the
southern city of Sabha. (Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Ben Harding)
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
------------[ Sent via the dehai-wn mailing list by dehai.org]--------------
Received on Tue Apr 03 2012 - 16:24:06 EDT