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Tribal clashes in Libya's Sabha kill 16



Smoke rises from a road in the district of Gardah in the southern Libyan town of Sabha.


TRIPOLI: At least 16 people were killed on Saturday in new clashes between the Toubou people and Arab tribesmen in the southern Libyan desert oasis of Sabha, local and medical sources told AFP.

A doctor at Sabha hospital, treating Arab casualties, said eight people were killed and another 50 wounded in fighting between the early morning and noon. A Toubou tribal source said eight of their people were also killed.

"We haven't slept since yesterday. The Toubou have been attacking Sabha since three in the morning, and they very nearly took the city. All the residents have taken up arms to defend it," Dr Abdelrahman al-Arish told AFP.

Adem al-Tebbawi, a local Toubou official, spoke of eight dead and "several wounded" on his side.

Local sources said Toubou fighters who had been pushed back several kilometres (miles) south of Sabha launched a counter-attack very early on Saturday in a bid to re-enter the city.

Other tribes accuse the Toubou of including foreign fighters among their ranks, notably from neighbouring Chad, a charge the Toubou deny.

"The Arab tribes are stopping African immigrants working in the town and presenting them to the press as Toubou fighters come from abroad," Tebbawi countered.

"We have respected a truce and we want reconciliation, but the other tribes -- especially the Awled Suleiman -- have not stopped attacking us for several days. We have been deprived of both water and power," he said.

On Friday, Toubou chief Issa Abdel Majid Mansur accused Arab tribes in Sabha of bombarding a power station providing electricity to several parts of southern Libya including Qatrun and Morzuk, both areas with a strong Toubou presence.

Telecommunications were also cut off, Mansur said, adding that "several" members of his tribe were killed that day.

The former opposition activist against the ousted regime of slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi also called for international intervention to halt what he called "ethnic cleansing."

"We demand that the United Nations and European Union intervene to stop the ethnic cleansing of the Toubou," Mansur said.

The latest fighting erupted on Monday after Arab tribesmen accused the Toubou of killing one of their people. The first three days of clashes cost more than 70 lives, Libyan government spokesman Nasser al-Manaa said on Wednesday.

At least another 24 people have been killed since then.

The Toubou say they are defending themselves against attack by Arab tribesmen in the region, and have accused the Libyan authorities of backing those gunmen as part of a campaign of "ethnic cleansing."

The Toubou are black oasis farmers by tradition who also have connections beyond Libya's borders. They live in southern Libya, northern Chad and in Niger, and have previously denied having separatist ambitions.

The Toubou have also been involved in deadly clashes with another tribe in the Saharan oasis of Kufra, where ethnic groups are locked in a standoff over smuggling.

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