Sporadic clashes have continued in and around Kufra between Tebu people and the Zway tribe backed by members of various brigades . . .[restrict]flown into the southeastern oasis town by the defence ministry. According to Tebu sources on Monday, at least 113 people had so far lost their lives in the fighting, including women and children, and a further 241 wounded.
According to Associated Press, an ambulance diver in Kufra reported that a further 50 people had been killed in the past 24 hours. Three are said to be Zway. Many residents of the town are said to be fleeing in trucks, taking what possessions they can with them.
A local engineer contacted by phone by the agency, Abdurrehim Al-Shewih, was quoted as saying: “The situation is extremely bad. . . It is about who kills the most everyday.”
He is also reported as saying that no one is going out in the streets, shops are shut and that when one side takes over a square, the other opens fire and drives it out.
There is no electricity in the town as a result of the power station being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
There have been a number of ceasefires in Kufra since the fighting started on 11 February between the two ethnic groups but none has lasted long.
Rivalry between to the ethnic groups is longstanding, mainly over smuggling from Sudan and Chad.
The fighting is said to have started when a Zway smuggler was involved in a gunfight with a number of Tebu smugglers. It is said that he shot and killed five of them before being hunted down by three others and shot dead.
However, the conflict is also being seen in terms of national security and is said to be related to fears in the town that the local Tebu leader, Isa Abdul Majid, who had been tasked by the NTC with securing the border with Chad and Sudan, wanted to establish a separate state in the region. There have been claims that he had brought in fighters from Chad to support him. Last week, it was reported that 30 members of the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement, fighting against the Zway and militiamen had been captured in Kufra. Pictures purporting to show Chadians involved in the fighting have been circulating in Libya.
The Arab Zway outnumber the black-skinned Tebu in Kufra by more than 20 to one, but their numbers are higher in the southwestern Libyan towns of Murzuk and Qatrun. Last week, in what appears to be a related incident, a bomb was reportedly thrown at security official in Murzuk. The Tebu are also found across the border in Chad and Niger.
On Tuesday, NTC spokesman, Mohammed Al-Hareizi announced that more brigades members would be sent to Kufra “to secure the southern border, to ensure that there are no foreign elements entering Libya and to secure the town of Kufra”. He called the situation there “critical”.
The previous day, the head of the armed forces, Yousef Al-Mangoush said that many more militiamen would go to Kufra if the clashes did not stop.
On Saturday, a number of people from Kufra and Tuwargha demonstrated outside the Libyan Embassy in Cairo claiming that their relatives were being attacked because of their previous support of Qaddafi’s regime. They claimed that Libyans who are black were being abused and expelled. In fact, the Tebu were early supporters of the revolution last year.