Monkey snatching schoolgirl’s headscarf sparks clashes in Libya, leaving 16 dead – report

FILE PHOTO © Ismail Zitouny
Four days of clashes between rival tribal militias in the Libyan city of Sabha have left at least 16 people dead and 50 injured. The violence was reportedly triggered by a monkey that snatched the headscarf off of a tribal girl.

The monkey, which belonged to a shopkeeper from the Gaddadfa tribe, pulled the headwear off a schoolgirl from the Awlad Suleiman tribe who was passing by with a group of other girls, reported Reuters, citing locals.

Awlad Suleiman fighters retaliated in response, killing three members of the Gaddadfa tribe along with the monkey in a wave of violence involving heavy weapons.

“There was an escalation on the second and third days with the use of tanks, mortars and other heavy weapons,” a local resident told the agency by phone, adding “there are still sporadic clashes and life is completely shut down in the areas where there has been fighting.”

Sabha is located in a tribal part of southern Libya. Like other parts of the country, it remains plagued by violence amongst rival factions. The region is also a major hub for arms smuggling, refugee trafficking, and other illegal activities. The Gaddadfa and the Awlad Suleiman are the two most powerful factions in the Sabha region.

By Sunday, the Sabha Medical Centre had received the bodies of 16 people killed in the clashes, as well as some 50 wounded, said a spokesman for the facility.

“There are women and children among the wounded and some foreigners from sub-Saharan African countries among those killed due to indiscriminate shelling,” he said.

Once one of the richest countries in Northern Africa, Libya was plunged into chaos after a NATO-assisted uprising toppled strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country is now a major hub for human smugglers who transport refugees from across the region to Europe.