Fighting flares in tribal dispute south of Tripoli

  • World
  • Monday, 12 Dec 2011

WAMIS, Libya (Reuters) - Rival militias in an area south-west of the Libyan capital exchanged heavy gunfire on Monday after a dispute flared up between them that local residents said had killed at least four people over the past 48 hours.

Reuters journalists in Wamis, about 190 km (120 miles) from Tripoli, said the fighting was between members of the El-Mashasha tribe, based around the town, and fighters from the larger town of Zintan in the mountains to the north.

Shots, including from machine guns, could be heard and all men and boys in Wamis were carrying Kalashnikov rifles, they said.

The Reuters journalists were shown a school and a mosque which had been hit by artillery or rocket fire, and also saw evidence of shells or rockets landing between houses in a residential area.

Residents said three people had been killed in attacks on the town by fighters from Zintan.

There is a long-standing rivalry between Zintan and the people of the El-Mashasha tribe. This worsened during the seven-month conflict against the rule of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Zintan rose up against Gaddafi while most of the El-Mashasha tribe supported him. Some of the artillery bombardment directed against Zintan during the conflict came from pro-Gaddafi batteries based in areas controlled by the tribe.

Local people said the latest flare-up began when El-Mashasha fighters killed a militia commander from Zintan on Sunday as his convoy tried to pass through a nearby town.

(Reporting by Hamuda Hassan; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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