The Libyan army announced on Saturday evening that it has regained control over the Tamenhant Military Base in the southern city of Sabha, after it had been overrun by gunmen loyal to the late President Muammar Gaddafi.
In statements made to the Anatolia News Agency, army spokesman Ali El-Sheikhy said that the army regained control of the base after several hours of fighting. Before withdrawing, the gunmen damaged buildings and stole some equipment. He neither confirmed nor denied if there were casualties on either side, nor has there been any independent confirmation that the army is back in control at the base.
El-Sheikhy added that the Libyan air force is monitoring the situation in the district to prevent any “suspicious activity”. Pilots, he said, will strike against any “breach of Libyan sovereignty”.
The official spokesman of the Ministry of Defence, Abdul Razzaq Al-Shahabi, pledged to prosecute the armed group that stormed the Tamenhant base. “The names of the people behind this are known,” he claimed, “and the army will protect the country and the revolution; there is no room for restoration of the old regime.”
The latest clashes follow fierce fighting on January 10 between the “Awlad Suleiman” and “Al-Tabu” tribes, resulting in the death of 30 people and 45 injured from both sides, according to security and medical sources. This was a dispute regarding the murder of a military officer in Sabha who belonged to the “Awlad Suleiman” tribe; they accused “Al-Tabu” of being involved in the killing. Armed groups from “Al-Tabu” attempted to enter Sabha from three areas in the south of the city earlier, to clash with the army.
Supporters of Gaddafi took advantage of these incidents and were able to take control of the Tamenhant base on Saturday, said military sources. Tamenhand is the largest Libyan military base and the main District Command Centre. It is equipped with advanced military hardware and includes a radar room to monitor the borders and air space.