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FACTDROP: Hundreds rally as tribal tensions seethe in Libya


Hundreds rally as tribal tensions seethe in Libya

The Amazighs form a majority in the northwestern Nafusa mountains. A Libyan Amazigh Berber boy takes part in a protest outside the prime minister's office in Tripoli on November 27 as the minority group steps up pressure to to be represented in the government.

Πηγή: The Daily Star
Nov 28 2011

TRIPOLI/TUNIS: Hundreds of people pushed their way to the door of the Libyan prime minister’s office Sunday as they demanded representation in the government for the Amazigh, one of the country’s largest ethnic minorities.

The Amazigh, whose culture was suppressed during the decades of Moammar Gadhafi’s rule, said they’re angry that they are not part of a new transitional government, despite their large size and contribution to toppling Gadhafi. The new government was sworn in Thursday.

The group has rallied repeatedly in Tripoli in recent days, just one of many groups to enjoy the new freedom in Libya to push for their interests.

The rallies reflect simmering tribal tensions – one of many challenges the interim government of Prime Minister Abdul-Rahim al-Qeeb faces as it tries build democratic institutions.

“We are protesting here to demand the rights of the Amazigh as they have sacrificed their martyrs, so they have the right to continue as a part of this country with us,” said Salaam al-Zameti, a Tripoli resident. “Why are they being discriminated against and neglected? They are Libyan citizens.”

During Sunday’s rally of about 400 people, some pressed their way to a security line in front of Qeeb’s office and briefly scuffled with guards.

Qeeb spoke briefly with some of the group’s elders, but results were not made public.

Also Sunday Tunisian airlines suspended flights to Libya’s capital Tripoli after armed men swarmed the runway and stopped a plane from taking off, a company official said.

Flights were suspended until “an improvement in the security conditions,” said Soulafa Mokaddem, a spokeswoman for Tunisair. Those to Libya’s second city, Benghazi in the east, will continue, she said.

A Tunisair flight leaving from Tripoli’s military airport of Maitiga carrying 47 wounded Libyans to be treated in Tunisia was stopped Saturday afternoon by 300 armed men, said TAP, Tunisia’s state news agency.

The fighters from the nearby suburb of Souq Jumaa stopped the plane from taking off and attempted to board the aircraft as a way of pressuring the government to investigate a recent attack on their comrades, the agency said, quoting the Tunisian charge d’affaires in Libya, Mohammad Ben Ayed.

The tense standoff was eventually resolved after negotiations with Tunisian diplomats and the plane, carrying the 47 wounded Libyans and seven Tunisian passengers, was able to fly back to Tunis, the agency said.

A band of fighters from the same neighborhood was ambushed Wednesday by loyalists to the fallen regime of Moammar Gadhafi near one of his former strongholds of Bani Walid, 170 kilometers southeast of Tripoli.

Some 15 fighters were killed in the ambush after being sent there to arrest a known Gadhafi supporter and there have been demonstrations in the capital demanding the perpetrators be brought to justice.

Following the overthrow of Gadhafi by ragtag rebels, Libya has been awash with weapons and armed militias with little overarching command structure, often leading to chaotic situations involving gunmen.

Libyan tribal leaders met for a three-day conference Saturday, hoping to ease tensions between clans.

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