Violence broke out on Sunday in the remote southeastern province of Al-Kufra and continued into Monday, a security official said on Monday, highlighting the challenge of policing the country's sparsely populated desert. Local gunmen clashed with fighters from the Tibu ethnic group led by Isa Abdel Majid, whom the locals accuse of bringing in people from neighbouring Chad and trying to base them in a nearby oasis, Abdelbari Idriss, the security official, told Reuters from Al-Kufra.
Abdel Majid's men had set up camp in the town of Jalu on Sunday night and were holding out there, Idriss said. It was not immediately possible to contact Abdel Majid, who supported the Libyan rebels during the 2011 uprising, nor to obtain further details about the clashes. The Tibu are mainly found in northern Chad but also inhabit parts of southern Libya, Sudan and Niger.
In Al-Kufra, tribal ties are far more powerful than they are on the country's Mediterranean seaboard. A tribal rebellion in 2009 was suppressed only after Muammar Gaddafi sent in helicopter gunships, while in 2011, Sudan sent in weapons to help Libyan rebels wrest control of the area.
The remote region is also a hub for smugglers crisscrossing the borders of sub-Saharan Africa. Al-Kufra is closer to the Sudanese capital Khartoum than it is to Tripoli. Libya's National Transitional Council has struggled to assert its authority as rival regional militias and tribal groups jostle for power and resources following the fall of Gaddafi.