Sunday 18 February 2018

Tunisia seals border as thousands flee bloodshed in Libya

Tunisian guards confront a group of Egyptians at the border crossing of Ras Jdir
Tunisian guards confront a group of Egyptians at the border crossing of Ras Jdir

Ben Bouzza

Tunisia closed its main border crossing with Libya yesterday after thousands of stranded Egyptian and foreign nationals, fleeing militia fighting and violence in Libya, tried to break through the passage.

It was the second eruption of unrest at the border in as many days, as thousands streamed into its neigbour.

Tunisia is the only escape route as fighting escalates in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, where rival militias have been battling for weeks to control the airport.

Yesterday's unrest took place when thousands of Egyptians, barred from entering Tunisia because they had no visa, held a protest then broke through part of a fence at the Ras Ajdir crossing, Tunisian security officials said.

The police responded by shooting in the air and firing tear gas. A reporter at the crossing said no one managed to make it to the other side and security forces used vehicles to physically block access. After a Tunisian police officer was wounded by gunfire from the Libyan side of the border, authorities closed the crossing.

A day earlier, two Egyptians were killed during a similar protest demanding to be let through. Tunisian officials say thousands of Libyans have been crossing the border each day during the past week.

Libya is witnessing its worst factional violence since the downfall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 civil war. Along with the fighting in Tripoli, which the Health Ministry said has killed 214 people and wounded more than 980 others, Islamic militias have overrun army bases in Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, and claimed control of the city.

On Friday, a powerful explosion ripped through the main police headquarters in Benghazi, nearly flattening it, witnesses said.

Irish Independent

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