Tripoli - A fierce gun battle between two tribes in Libya's remote south-eastern desert has killed at least 17 people in the past two days and wounded another 22, tribal sources told reporters on Monday.
Clashes between the tribes of Zwai and Tobu in the town of Kufra have killed 17 people since Sunday, including nine from the Zwai tribe and eight from the Tobu clan, sources from both the tribes said.
A source from the Tobu tribe said “shelling from the Zwai side was intense with heavy weapons”.
He said that members of his tribe turned to the the National Transitional Council for help but that Libya's ruling body “did not respond and did not answer our calls”.
Earlier on Monday, NTC spokesperson Mohammed al-Harizi confirmed that there were clashes between two groups on Sunday.
“It was a problem between two tribes and they are working to find a peaceful solution,” he told reporters, without naming the tribes.
Both groups were using light arms when the fighting initially erupted on Sunday, but the violence then intensified, with the two sides firing rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns, sources said.
A militant from Tobu tribe said those fighting him and his comrades since Sunday were Zwai tribesmen supported by the NTC.
“There is a plan to exterminate the Tobu tribe. Our situation is worse than what it was under Gaddafi,” he said without giving his name.
Members of Tobu, who are dark-skinned, were discriminated against even under the regime of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The latest clashes apparently erupted after a young man from the Zwai tribe was killed in Kufra by three dark-skinned men believed to be from the Tobu tribe three days ago, a source from the Zwai tribe said.
Tobu tribe is also present in Niger and Chad, while the town of Kufra which houses about 40 000 people, is located in a triangle sharing borders with Egypt, Chad and Sudan.
The desert town also witnessed deadly clashes during last year's anti-Gaddafi uprising, which erupted across the country and ended with the strongman's death in October.