Rival Libyan Militias Clash, Killing 2 Fighters

Published January 13, 2012 9:00PM (EST)

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Rival Libyan militias clashed south of the capital on Friday, firing machine guns and rockets at one another in fighting that left at least two people dead, officials said.

The clash underscored the tenuous security situation in the North African nation since revolutionary forces overthrew the regime of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year after eight months of civil war. Libya's new leaders are still struggling to rein in the various militias that played a key role in toppling Gadhafi but have largely refused so far to disarm or submit to the interim government's authority.

Friday's violence pitted fighters from the town of Gharyan, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Tripoli, against a militia from al-Asabia, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) to the southwest.

Ahmed al-Sharif of the Gharyan militia said his fighters had gone to arrest people suspected of having ties to the former Gadhafi regime. Al-Asabia fighters refused to hand the suspects over, triggering a shootout that saw the two sides firing guns and rockets at each other.

Medic Mohammed Hussein of the Gharyan hospital said two fighters were killed and eight people wounded, at least one of them a civilian.

"He was at home and a missile landed on his house," Hussein said.

Medics and fighters from al-Asabia could not be reached by telephone.

Also Friday, a Libyan security official said border guards caught 51 Somalis who were trying to sail to Europe when their boat broke down.

Tripoli's preventative security chief, Karim Al-Traiki, said the group set sail overnight on an inflatable raft, but their engine stalled at sea, forcing some to swim to shore to ask for help. Libyan guards motored out to retrieve the others.

Six women, some of them pregnant, were among the group. The guards were holding them in a security office while deciding what do to with them.

Libya has long been a jumping-off point for migrants seeking to enter Europe illegally. The revolutionary forces that took control of the country after overthrowing Gadhafi said they would work to prevent illegal immigration from their shores.

By Salon Staff

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