Clashes resumed in Sebha after the expiration of a 24-hour cease-fire between Tebu and Tuareg forces on Tuesday evening.
Tebu and Tuareg, both ethnic minorities native to Libya’s southern border zones, have been fighting a bloody war in Ubari, 200km east of Sebha, since last August, but no confrontations had so far been reported in Sebha, the only major urban center in southwest Libya.
Tuesday night, Tebu fighters allegedly attacked the base of Army Brigade 172, where Tuareg forces are gathered, but were pushed back.
Clashes erupted on Monday morning in the outskirts of the city, next to Sebha airport, mainly in Tayuri and the so-called Indian company. Both are large-scale abandoned construction sites where displaced people and recent immigrants have settled over the past four years. In particular Tayuri is known to host an impoverished Tebu community, which has grown substantially due to people arriving from remote desert areas.
Sebha Medical Center received the bodies of three individuals killed in the clashes and a fourth who was victim of a kidnapping, the hospital’s spokesman told Libyan news outlet Al-Wasat on Monday.
It is still unclear what triggered the latest fighting, as both parties claim they were attacked first. Moreover, they accuse one another of having brought in fighters from abroad, with Tuareg claiming that they face “Chadian mercenaries”, while Tebu say the Tuareg fighters are “Mauritanian”.
Following tribal mediation on Monday, the warring parties agreed to temporarily halt the fighting, but only until 10pm on Tuesday, which is when clashes resumed.
Sebha has seen a surge of inter-communal violence since the start of the month, with fighting taking place in various parts of town involving not only Tebu and Tuareg, but also members of the Gadhadfa and the Awald Suleiman tribes. The separate incidents were allegedly triggered by isolated acts of violence and crime, which quickly escalated into tribal fighting.
Last week, several casualties were reported in clashes between Tebu and Qadhadfa. The fighting followed the murder, allegedly by a gang of young Tebu, of a Qadhadfa man during an attempted carjacking, according to Libya Herald. On July 2, Libya Herald reported overnight clashes near Sebha Hospital between Tebu and Awlad Sulaiman following a dispute between individuals from the two communities.
Sebha has recently seen a surge of crime, including multiple cases of murder and kidnapping for ransom. The death toll goes beyond 30 since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, according to social media reports.
“Things are getting desperate here in Sebha, absolutely desperate. People have been murdered everyday here during Ramadan”, Sebha resident Iman Abdo tweeted on Saturday.
In addition the overall lawlessness, there are concerns that the Islamic State Group, which is currently expanding its presence throughout Libya, may be gaining a foothold in the southern region.
In April, an Islamic State propaganda video showed the execution of a dozen Ethiopian Christians that allegedly took place in the Fezzan, the southwestern region of Libya.
Ten days ago, a Nigerian couple was found with their throats slit in their house in Sebha. It has not been established whether the murder was a hate crime, and it has not been claimed by the Islamic State Group.