Tuaregs, Arabs swap hostages in Libya peace deal

September 30, 2011 21:49

GHADAMES, Libya - Tuareg tribesmen and local Arabs who have fought skirmishes near this Saharan oasis exchanged hostages and signed an agreement on Friday to try to stabilize an area where some security officials believe Muammar Gaddafi has taken refuge.

At a ceremony attended by Suleiman Mahmoud al-Obeidi, the military chief of the country's new rulers, elders from the local Arab population and Tuareg nomads agreed to keep the peace and treat each other as equals in this ancient trading settlement 600 km southwest of Tripoli on the Algerian border.

Officials of the interim National Transitional Council (NTC), the coalition that led the effort to overthrow Gaddafi, said at the weekend that the town, which is under the control of their forces, had been attacked this month by pro-Gaddafi forces, possibly tied to one of Gaddafi's sons, Khamis.

But other sources have said it was a clash between Tuaregs and the townspeople -- a more worrying version of events for the NTC because it shows the deep divisions in Libyan society that may remain even if the last of Gaddafi's forces are defeated.

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