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Libya struggles with warring tribes and hostile militia

Libya’s transitional government is facing a tough task to pacify fractious tribes and groups opposed to its authority. In one tribal conflict, 12 people died. Elsewhere, tanks were seized from a pro-Gadhafi militia.

One of the triggers for fighting in the town of Zlitan, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of the capital, Tripoli, appears to have been a family quarrel.

At least 12 people were reported to have died with some 40 wounded, local media said on Friday. After a member of one tribe killed a member of another, the dispute degenerated into an effective "war," according to authorities. Both groups were in possession of heavy weapons.

One source of contention between the tribes is also the question of whether to keep or remove a shrine in the town.

Since the fall of former ruler Moammar Gadhafi last summer, deadly clashes between rival tribes have been on the increase, primarily in the south and west of the country.

Reasons for the fighting may include clan disputes as well as battles to control smuggling routes to the border.

Meanwhile, in the city of Tarhuna, also to the southeast of Tripoli, government troops seized more than 100 tanks and armored vehicles and 30 rocket launchers from a militia loyal to Gadhafi, calling itself "The Brigade of the Faithful."

The militiamen had claimed to be loyal to the government and had been staying at a barracks at Tarhuna. Authorities became aware of the group through an investigation into a twin car bombing attack in Tripoli. The mastermind behind that assault, in which two guards were killed earlier in the week, was believed to have come from the militia stationed at Tarhuna.

rc / msh (AFP, dpa)