Opposing Libyan tribesmen have come to blows in the poorly controlled southwestern region of the country. The bloody episode highlights the limits to government control just weeks before an election is due.
Rival Libyan militia clashed for the third day running on Wednesday, leaving over a dozen people dead and highlighting the precariousness of peace in Libya months after the overthrow of its longstanding dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.
"Fourteen people were killed and about 89 wounded in combat in the Nafusa mountains," said interim government spokesman Nasser al-Mana, speaking from Tripoli. He did not comment on the reason for the fighting nor the different sides involved.
The fighting took place in the southwest of the country. Militia from the town of Zintan clashed with the al-Mashashia tribe, who had kept themselves out of the rebellion against deposed Gadhafi, according to officials.
Al-Mana added that national army soldiers were in the area to diffuse the situation.
"Creating stability is the responsibility of all," he said.
The two sides have engaged in bitter fighting since December last year, resulting - until now - in four deaths. Tension boiled over into violent clashes this week, allegedly after a Zintan fighter was shot dead at a roadblock put up by a Mashashia tribesman in response to alleged attempts by Zintan militia to shell their village. Blame was laid for the Zintan fighter's death on the Mashashia tribe, resulting in a violent confrontation.
Gadhafi's iron fist kept a lid on the deep-running hostilities between different villages, cities and tribes in Libya. Since he was ousted, old feuds have flared up, especially in the southern Sahara and mountainous west, as the new interim government struggles to establish control in a country awash with weapons.
The bloody episode comes only weeks before a scheduled election in Libya; on July 7 Libyans will vote for a national assembly.
sej/ncy (Reuters, AFP)