TRIPOLI/ALGIERS (Reuters) – Tuareg tribesmen fought skirmishes at the weekend with armed groups affiliated to Libya’s interim government, two sources with local contacts told Reuters, a clash that highlighted the challenges Libya’s new rulers face in winning over fractious tribes.
Tuaregs, nomads who roam the desert spanning the borders of Libya and its neighbours, backed Libya’s deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi and view with suspicion the National Transitional Council (NTC) that is now in power.
The clashes happened in Ghadames, a town on the border with Algeria about 600 km southwest of Tripoli, according to the commander of an anti-Gaddafi military unit and a leading Tuareg figure based in Algeria.
NTC officials in Tripoli said at the weekend the town, which is under the control of their forces, had been attacked by Gaddafi’s military forces, possibly tied to one of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons, Khamis.
But the two sources said it was a clash between Tuaregs and townspeople — a more worrying version of events for the NTC because it shows the deep divisions in Libyan society that will remain even if the last of Gaddafi’s forces are defeated.