Civilians killed as armed groups clash in Libyan south

February 28, 2018 20:19
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BENGHAZI, Libya - Fighting between rival armed groups in the southern Libyan city of Sabha has left at least six civilians dead and wounded others, including women and children, a medical official said on Wednesday.

Sporadic clashes between the Sixth Division, which is attached to the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), and rival fighters from the Tebu ethnic group, started around Feb. 4, said Osama al-Wafi, a spokesman at Sabha's main hospital.

The fighting has led to fears of an escalation of violence in Libya's impoverished south, where the LNA has been trying to expand its influence and has clashed with groups aligned with the internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli.

The LNA is aligned with a rival government based in Libya's east.

Sabha, about 660 km (410 miles) south of Tripoli, has been a hub for the smuggling of African migrants and other contraband towards Libya's Mediterranean coast. It has seen occasional bouts of fighting linked to the wider conflict that developed after the country's 2011 uprising.

The Sixth Division is largely composed of fighters from the Awlad Suleiman tribe. It is loyal to LNA leader Khalifa Haftar, who named new brigade commanders for the division this month.

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