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Monday, November 10, 2008

Tribal uprising in S. Libya: 33 casualties

CAIRO — Libya has been rocked by the worst unrest since 2006.

Libyan opposition sources said riots were led by tribes near the city of Kufra, 1,900 kilometers south of Tripoli, Middle East Newsline reported.

"A large amount of Libyan forces have been sent south," an opposition source said.

The sources reported casualties among Libyan security forces and the Tabu tribe in clashes on Nov. 3. The riots were said to have stemmed from protests over lack of medical and other basic services around Kufra.

The Libyan government has acknowledged the unrest. The government said 33 people have been killed or injured in the clashes.

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The opposition sources said Libyan military and security forces have placed Kufra under siege in an effort to quell the unrest. They said authorities have severed telephone connection between Kufra and the outside world.

"The army is constantly bringing in troops via helicopter," the source said. "There is heavy fighting and shooting taking place in the city."

Issa Abdul Majid Mansour, head of the European-based Libyan Tabu Salvation Front, said security forces were exchanging fire with tribal members. Mansour, based in Norway, said tribesmen were torching army and security vehicles in the Kufra.

The regime of Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi has sought to win the loyalty of the powerful Tabu tribe. In December 2007, the regime reached an agreement to improve educational, medical and employment for tribal members.

But the opposition sources said the pledges were largely ignored. They said Tabu members, particularly youngsters, have come under attack from Libyan government-backed militias around Kufra.

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