Tripoli, 12 May;
Ghadames and nearby Awaal are now reported quiet following clashes on Thursday between local Tuareg and revolutionary brigadesmen. No . . .[restrict]one was reported hurt.
A Tuareg spokeman said the clashes followed allegations by Ghadames residents that some Tuareg had attacked a child and stolen a car . This resulted in brigadesmen heading to Awaal, where many Tuareg from Ghadames now stay. It was reported that in the clashes, the brigadesmen were forced back towards the recently reopened airport.
The Tuareg were accused last year of supporting Qaddafi and, as a result of reprisals against them last September, many fled their homes (see article: Distrust in Ghadames). A significant number now hope to relocate to Awaal which they want to make an entirely Tuareg town. However, a local source this week said that local Tuareg were planning to mount a peaceful protest demanding that they be able to return to their homes in Ghadames.
The source added that they were still being prevented from doing so.
Attempts are being made to settle matters in the area. Two weeks ago, there was a meeting between Ghadames’ local and military councils and the UN Support Mission in Libya to discuss what help the latter could give in providing aid to border areas, advice on housing and services for displaced persons and illegal immigrants.
The tensions involving both Arab and Tuareg communities predate last year’s revolution. As with the recent clashes in Kufra, Zuara, and Sebha which have been presented as ethnic divisions, they have their roots in local smuggling rivalries. Ghadames is on the border with both Algeria and Tunisia and historically has been a major smuggling centre.
In recent years the town has become a major point on the illegal migration trail from West Africa to Europe (see article: Life is tough for an immigrant in Ghadames).