Tripoli - Libya is sending troops to the country's
restive south after gunmen stormed an air force base in the region's biggest
town, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said on Saturday, following days of skirmishes
between rival tribesmen and militias.
Zeidan said a small group of gunmen had entered the air
force base outside Sabha, 770km south of
the capital Tripoli, but the government was in control of the town and its
"This confrontation [at the air base] is continuing
but in a few hours it will be solved," the prime minister told a televised
address, without elaborating.
Zeidan said he had sent his defence minister to Misrata
to instruct troops based there to move to the south.
The central coastal city is home to some of the most
experienced soldiers and militias, battle-hardened from the 2011 uprising.
"The troops from Misrata have been commissioned by
the government to conduct a national task... to spread security and stability
in the region," he said in the address.
The government, with its nascent army still in training,
has struggled to rein in the armed groups which helped topple Muammar Gaddafi
two-and-a-half years ago but kept their guns to press for political and financial
Weak border controls and a small army lacking equipment
have turned Libya into a weapons smuggling route for al-Qaeda in sub-Saharan
countries and also a transit corridor for Islamist fighters heading to Syria's
Western powers worry about instability in the sparsely
populated south bordering Niger, Chad, Sudan and Egypt.
People traffickers also use the remote desert borders to
smuggle refugees into Libya from where many try to reach Europe by boat.