Libya-Tunisia border crossing closed amid renewed armed clashes

Several security personnel and one civilian injured in skirmishes in the town of Wazin

The Libyan side of the Ras Ajdir border crossing into Tunisia. AFP
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Libya’s Tripoli-based National Unity Government is to close the Ras Ajdir border crossing with Tunisia after armed clashes erupted in the nearby town of Wazin, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

The gun battles are the latest in a long-running series of conflicts in Libya, that broke out after the toppling of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Fighting over the years has shut down key infrastructure from oilfields to government buildings, airports and major roads.

According to Libyan sources and videos posted to social media by Wazin residents, clashes between the Interior Ministry’s Zuwara Military Chamber task force and armed militias injured injuring several security force members and at least one civilian.

The ministry accused the gunmen of “stirring chaos” and said it would apply the law to counter smuggling by the groups.

“Security forces have been assigned to secure the border and prevent smuggling, as well as combat crime, in order for the crossing to maintain its role due to the vital importance it holds for Libyans,” the ministry said.

After seizing control of the Ras Ajdir border crossing with Tunisia in November, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah’s government appointed a special security task force for the frontier point, through which Libyans travel to Tunisia, mainly for commerce and medical treatment.

The move was challenged by armed groups – affiliated with the Supreme Council for the Amazighs of Libya – who threatened to escalate the situation if Mr Dbeibah’s government refused to concede.

The government rejected the tribe-led council's request and maintained security could not be maintained at the crossing through a system outside of state control.

“The [Ras Ajdir] border crossing cannot be subjected to the control of certain groups, cities or specific regions, it must be sovereign and abide by the rule of law,” the ministry reaffirmed on Tuesday.

Travellers and merchants from either side of the border have been advised to use the Dehiba-Wazin crossing to the south until the security situation at the Ras Ajdir is calmer.

Tunisians stranded at Ras Ajdir, as well as Libyan ambulances, could enter Tunisia through Dehiba-Wazin.

Libyan authorities have announced an investigation into the latest clashes has been launched, while reinforcements were sent by the Ministry of Defence.

Witnesses said security forces had retreated while security teams affiliated with Zuwara took over managing the Ras Ajdir border point.

Updated: March 19, 2024, 12:11 PM