South Libya clashes ‘kill 47’ in three days

Renewed tribal clashes in the Libyan city of Kufra have claimed at least 47 lives and left more than 100 others wounded in three days, local leaders and a medic told AFP on Saturday.

"Thirty-two have been killed this week in the two Toubou residential areas," a medic treating Toubou casualties in Kufra told AFP.

"The number of wounded exceeds 100. Women and children make up more than half of the injured, with the majority of them hurt by mortar fire," added doctor Taher Wehli.

The medic said his clinic had documented eight deaths on Saturday alone.

Tribal leader Hussein Sake said the shelling against Toubou areas in the desert city was ongoing and unrelenting.

"It is a situation of war with continuous attacks on Toubou neighbourhoods," Sake told AFP. "They keep shelling us, so of course now we hit back to defend ourselves."

Sake blamed the outbreak of violence on rival Zwai tribesmen and their allies, who he said include the Libya Shield brigade, a force deployed by the interim government to act as a buffer between the conflicting camps.

Wissam Ben Hamid, commander of the brigade, insisted his forces were neutral and trying to broker a new truce after clashes broke out late Wednesday.

He said the fighting pitted Toubou tribesmen against Zwai and other tribes.

The commander confirmed the death toll was "high, about 30" and stressed that "negotiations are now underway to calm tensions."

Abdullah Zwai, meanwhile, said his tribe had also suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Toubou, "with 14 people killed in the past two days."

He said Toubou tribesmen on Friday attacked the Libya Shield brigade, killing one member.

In February, tribal clashes in Kufra left more than 100 people dead and displaced half the population, according to UN figures.

Tensions still run high in the region, periodically escalating into deadly skirmishes between the different parties.

Toubou tribesmen in April clashed with Daraa Shield brigade, a unit of the national army that was deployed on February 23.

The latest flareup comes ahead of July 7 elections to vote for a national assembly, the first poll after 42 years of dictatorship under Moamer Kadhafi, who was toppled and killed last year.

Kufra, a town of about 40,000, is located in a triangle where the borders of Egypt, Chad and Sudan meet.

The Toubou, who are dark-skinned and present in southeast Libya as well as in Chad, Sudan and Niger, faced discrimination under Kadhafi's regime.

They complain of discrimination under the new authorities and some tribal leaders say the Toubou are being targeted in an "ethnic cleansing campaign."

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