TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A Libyan health official said Tuesday that at least 50 people have been killed in two days of tribal clashes in southern Libya — on the same day that another official was reported kidnapped in the north.
The tribal violence prompted the resignation of the deputy chairman of the Libyan governing council in protest over his body's inability to impose its rule on the country.
The resignation, kidnapping and deadly battles underline the fragile nature of Libya after the fall of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi last year. The new government has been unable to secure the country in the absence of a police force or national army. Instead, Libya is ruled by squabbling tribes and militias.
In the southern city of Sabha, armed tribes clashed for a second day, using mortars, automatic rifles, snipers on rooftops and rockets with a range of 10 kilometers (six miles). The tribes were fighting in the city's main streets as the central government in Tripoli struggled to intervene.
Libyan Health Ministry official Abdul-Rahman al-Hasnawy said most the 50 died of gunshot and shrapnel wounds. He said about 160 people were wounded. Some were transferred to other cities for treatment.
The clashes in Sabha, about 650 kilometers (400 miles) south of the capital, Tripoli, erupted Monday after a man from the Tabu tribe allegedly killed a member of the Abu Seif tribe.
According to Hassan Moussa, a Tabu commander, his people were supposed to meet the Abu Seif tribe for reconciliation when they came under attack Monday outside a government building. He said residents were fleeing the city.
The government, which lacks a viable security force to contain the violence, instead sent Sabha native Abdel-Majid Seif al-Nasr, the deputy chairman of the government's National Transitional Council.
Al-Nasr, frustrated with the government's inability to quell the violence, announced his resignation Tuesday. His predecessor, Abdel-Hafiz Ghoga, resigned in January in the face of angry protests over the government's inefficiency and lack of transparency.
Al-Nasry told The Associated Press his resignation is "a political move to push the NTC to take decisive action in Sabha."
With no government force in Sabha, a Benghazi-based former rebel group from the northeast that was once an elite paramilitary force traveled on its own there Tuesday to try to resolve the crisis.
NTC chief Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said this week that he agrees with critics that say his government is not providing strong enough leadership. He told The Associated Press that he is not satisfied with the performance of his government, because it is too slow in making decisions and is weak.
In Benghazi, an official responsible for Libyan fighters being treated abroad was kidnapped, according to NTC spokesman Mohammed Hareizi. He said the government is investigating the abduction.
Ahmed al-Ashgar, who works in the Ministry of Martyrs, Wounded and Missing Persons, said Rifaat Abu Dabbous went missing from his office in Benghazi Monday evening.
"We don't know who took him. We tried looking everywhere and even went to armed groups to ask about him," al-Ashgar said.
According to residents in Benghazi, the ministry official was likely kidnapped by families angry with alleged corruption in his office and with the committee's mishandling of wounded Libyans. The government says it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on treating Libyans in India, Jordan, Turkey and Germany.
Moussa Jumah, 22, who was shot in the leg fighting Gadhafi's forces last year, said he was treated poorly in India. He charged that the government siphoned off large portions of the money meant for treatment.
"The ministry's committee didn't do its job. We didn't get the right accommodation nor the health care that we left Libya seeking in India," he said, adding that one man died due to poor care. "All the guys are so upset and when we were on the plane back to Libya, they were taking about attacking the committee as soon as we get home."
The kidnapping prompted the resignation of another ministry official, Ashraf Bin-Ismail, who said "everything just collapsed and is out of control."
"We can't handle it," he said.