Clashes between rival militias have killed nearly 50 people in three days in Sebha, Libya's fourth largest city in the south, officials said. The clashes highlight the difficulties faced by the new Libyan authorities just over five months after the death of Muammar Gaddafi.
An official with the Interior Ministry announced Monday that 300 soldiers were being sent to the region in an attempt to restore calm, and an additional 300 soldiers left Tripoli on Tuesday.
The fighting erupted around the airport on the outskirts of the city, but then spread into the center, reported a local fighter. Clashes began after the attempted theft of a car belonging to a militia of Sebha by Toubou fighters, said Mousa al-Koni, representing Toubou within the Transitional National Council (TNC).
Chief of Toubou, Abdelmajid Issa Mansour, yesterday denounced a plan of "ethnic cleansing" against his tribe, waving for the first time the separatist threat. "We are announcing the reactivation of the Toubou Front for the salvation of Libya to protect the Toubou against ethnic cleansing, and if necessary, we will ask for international intervention and work for a state like South Sudan," he declared.
Abdelmajid Issa Mansour, a former opponent of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, had announced the dissolution of his movement after the fall of the old regime in August. The Toubou tribe is living astride Libya, North Chad and Niger, and has repeatedly refuted separatist aspirations.