Fighters prepare for clashes between rival militias in the southern Libyan city of Sabha 28 March, 2 (Photo: Reuters)
Fresh clashes Thursday between rival Libyan tribes killed eight people, a hospital official said, even as authorities spoke of an imminent truce in the southern desert town of Sabha.
"The situation is very bad. At least eight bodies were brought to the hospital over the past three hours," said a doctor at the Sabha hospital, Abdel Rahman Arish, reached by telephone.
He told AFP several people were also wounded in the fighting that has raged since Monday between the Toubou tribe and Arab tribesmen from Sabha.
But the ruling National Transitional Council gave a conflicting account, one day after reporting that more than 70 people had been killed and 150 wounded in Sabha.
"The situation is calm" in Sabha, NTC spokesman Mohammed Harizi told a news conference.
A truce will "imminently" be signed, he said, calling for Toubou gunmen to withdraw further south to the town of Qatrun.
A resident of the Toubou stronghold of Al-Hijara in Sabha, meanwhile, told AFP that fighting was still raging there in the afternoon, adding that tribesmen were torching homes owned by the Toubou.
The fighting erupted on Monday after Arab tribesmen accused the Toubou of killing one of their people.
The Toubou say they are defending themselves against attack by Arab tribesmen in the region, and have accused the Libyan authorities of backing those gunmen as part of a campaign of "ethnic cleansing."
The Toubou are black oasis farmers by tradition who also have connections beyond Libya's borders. They live in southern Libya, northern Chad and in Niger, and have previously denied having separatist ambitions.
The Toubou have also been involved in deadly clashes with another tribe in the Saharan oasis of Kufra, where ethnic groups are locked in a standoff over smuggling.