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Tripoli declares state of emergency in Libya’s south


January 19, 2014- Libya’s oil-rich south has sunk deeper into chaos after tribal and ethnic fighting prompted the government in Tripoli to declare a state of emergency at the weekend and dispatch fighter jets to the region. Ali Zeidan, Libya’s prime minister, and delegations of lawmakers and ministers, said they would travel to the southern commercial and administrative hub of Sabha to assess security and meet local leaders after ethnic Tebu fighters allegedly seized control of the Tamanhint air base east of the city in battles with rival Arab tribesmen at the weekend....

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Tripoli declares state of emergency in Libya’s south

By Borzou Daragahi

January 19, 2014

Libya’s oil-rich south has sunk deeper into chaos after tribal and ethnic fighting prompted the government in Tripoli to declare a state of emergency at the weekend and dispatch fighter jets to the region.

Ali Zeidan, Libya’s prime minister, and delegations of lawmakers and ministers, said they would travel to the southern commercial and administrative hub of Sabha to assess security and meet local leaders after ethnic Tebu fighters allegedly seized control of the Tamanhint air base east of the city in battles with rival Arab tribesmen at the weekend.

Officials on Sunday said the base had been returned to government control after the fighter jets flew over the site without using force. Mr Zeidan said a "hostile force" had taken over the base and hinted at the involvement of foreigners and supporters of the ousted Muammer Gaddafi regime. On Saturday, he said he had asked fighters from the coastal city of Misurata to head to the south to quell the unrest.

But other officials later described the fighting as rooted in local rivalries between clans that was little different to the sporadic tensions over turf and smuggling routes that have erupted in violence the country’s northwest.

Tensions between Arab, Tebu and Tuareg groups in the south have periodically turned violent, exacerbated by the spread of weapons across Libya following the 2011 collapse of the Gaddafi regime. The conflict has racial overtones, with Libya’s darker-skinned Tebu and Tuaregs who have roots in sub-Saharan Africa accusing Arab elites along the Mediterranean Sea of hoarding resources and power.

Much of Libya’s oil reserves are concentrated in the south and the outbreak of violence threatens to disrupt oil and gas production already hampered by politically-motivated blockades of facilities.

The UN’s Libya mission at the weekend voiced "deep concern" over the violence in the south of the country. "The mission calls for the immediate end to the armed clashes and supports efforts to restore calm, stop the bloodshed and ensure security in the city and other areas of southern Libya," it said in a statement.

The latest clashes began last weekend after members of the Tebu, who claim decades of discrimination and abuse at the hands of Arabs, allegedly killed a local Arab chief linked to a 2012 massacre of Tebu and Tuaregs in Sabha. Dozens have died in the fighting, including two killed this weekend in Sabha and three near the southeastern city of Jalu, close to the southeastern Sarir oilfields near Kufrah.

Libya’s official WAL news agency said the road between Jalu and Kufrah to the south had been closed because of clashes between Arab and Tebu tribes.



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