Fierce clashes between two tribes in Libya’s remote southeastern desert have killed more than 100 people over the past 10 days, tribal sources said on Tuesday.
At least 113 people from the Toubu tribe and another 23 from the Zwai tribe have been killed in the town of Kufra since fighting erupted on February 12, the sources said.
“We are under siege since a week. Since the start of the clashes, 113 people (from our side) have been killed, including six children,” Toubu chief Issa Abdelmajid told AFP by telephone.
He said another 241 members of his tribe have been wounded.
Abdelmajid, a former opponent of Moamer Qaddafi who fought the slain dictator’s forces in last year’s conflict, was previously tasked by the ruling National Transitional Council with monitoring Libya’s southeastern border.
At least 23 people from the Zwai tribe have also been killed and another 53 wounded in the clashes, said sources from Zwai tribe.
A Zwai source said of those killed three died in new clashes on Tuesday, while 13 others were wounded.
“People from the Toubu tribe are being helped by foreign elements from Chad and Sudan. We have arrested several Chadian and Sudanese fighters,” said Yunus Zwai, spokesman for Kufra local council.
At first, both groups used light arms, but eventually started firing rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns, local sources said.
“I appeal to the international community to intervene and stop these clashes which are aimed at exterminating my tribe,” said Abdelmajid.
“We tried calling the NTC but it has not responded,” he added.
NTC spokesman Mohammed al-Harizi told AFP that Libyan thuwar (anti-Qaddafi revolutionaries) were heading to Kufra on Tuesday.
“The thuwar are moving there to secure the southern border, to ensure that there are no foreign elements entering Libya and to secure the town of Kufra,” Harizi said without confirming the casualties but adding that the situation remained “critical.”
On Monday he told Libya’s official LANA news agency that the situation in Kufra was “not calm.”
“There is an armed conflict between certain members of the society there in which several have been killed and wounded,” Harizi said.
An NTC source, on condition of anonymity, said control of lucrative smuggling routes was at the root of the conflict.
Zwai, meanwhile, said those fighting members of his tribe were not Libyan Toubu tribesmen, but “foreign elements.”
“There is an invisible hand in the fighting. The Libyan Toubu are safe in their homes,” he said.
Members of the Toubu tribe are dark-skinned and present in southeastern Libya as well as in Chad, Sudan and Niger.
Kufra, with a population of about 40,000, is located in a triangle sharing borders with Egypt, Chad and Sudan. The Toubu tribe faced discrimination under Qaddafi’s regime.