29 August 2013

Libya: New Tribal Clashes Hit Western Libya

Tripoli — Libyan troops moved to put an end to renewed tribal clashes between Zawia and Warshefana on Monday (August 26th).

Libya's Shield forces took up positions between the warring parties after a meeting between congressmen, ministers and military leaders that was chaired by Nouri Abu Sahmein, president of the General National Congress (GNC).

Thirty-one people in the Warshefana area were arrested at the time. They were charged with theft and banditry along the coastal road.

The latest fighting originally broke out last Thursday between the areas of Abu Isa in Zawia and Maamoura in the region of the Warshefana tribe. The skirmishes killed five and wounded twenty-five.

"We couldn't sleep. There were Grad rockets," said Leila Zawi, a mother of two children who lives in the region. "The children were crying and electricity was cut off. Everyone is waiting for the army's intervention, which is long overdue."

The chairman of the Zawia local council, Mohamed Khadrawi, said on Sunday that "order was restored and the cease-fire is in effect." He added that if there was a breach, Libya's Shield forces would deal with it.

Khadrawi explained that order was restored after mediation efforts by elders from the cities of Misrata, Zintan and other western regions. He said the clashes were due to theft, banditry and looting, particularly on the coastal road.

"Things are quiet now and the road between the two regions is open," said Mohamed Sayeh, a member of a civil society institution in Warshefana. He pointed out that by handing over the wanted criminals, security would be restored and people would relax.

Prime Minister Ali Zidan said late Saturday that forces from the chief of staff and the defence ministry were sent to the location of the fighting. He called on both groups to stop shooting in order for the troops to position themselves between the two sides.

"It is very unfortunate that the use of weapons has become an easy matter. Shooting in order to kill other citizens, no matter what causes and reasons are advanced by the warring parties, is distasteful; it should not happen," Zidan said.

Zidan added, "No doubt, this is due to the proliferation of weapons among citizens. These arms should be held by the legitimate authorities that are the army and police. Instead they are now in the hands of citizens and not governed by any discipline or army law. Hence, unless we succeed in collecting these arms and returning them to the storehouses of the army, we will have many challenges."

The Warshefana tribes issued a statement welcoming the entry of Libyan forces to separate the two warring regions.

"The need is for these forces to work under the legitimate command of the GNC, the Ministry of Defence and the Presidency of the General Staff in order to resolve the dispute according to approved administrative regulations," the Warshefana said.

A statement from Zawia blamed the interim government, security and judicial institutions for the events. "Behind these events are criminal outlaws causing problems and committing robberies, kidnapping, murders and criminality in all its forms and using the areas of Maamoura, al-Hachan, Kerkoz, District 27 as bases for their activities," it said.

"These locations have witnessed instability for over two years since the liberation," the statement added.

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