© REUTERS/Finbarr O'ReillyA mother and child ride atop a camel as a Tuareg caravan travels north through a remote region of southern Niger July 4, 2005.
Libyan Tuaregs Flee to Algeria Amid Reports of Ethnic Cleansing

More than 55 Libyans from the Tuareg tribe have crossed over into Algerian territory in the last two days through the border crossing at Debdeb in the province of Illizi. They left the town of Ghadames and its surrounding villages out of fear of reprisals by armed groups against certain individuals, and particularly against Tuareg families.

Sources inside the Libyan city of Ghadames told El-Khabar that the Tuareg tribes have been subjected to ethnic cleansing for the past eight months. The Ghadames tribe, which is backed by forces affiliated with the National Transitional Council, is allegedly carrying out these acts. The latter burned and destroyed hostels and stables belonging to the Tuareg tribe and expelled them from the city, forcing them to flee into Algeria.

According to the escapees, many Tuareg members were subjected to "illegal" detention in secret locations under inhumane conditions. They added that members of the Ghadames tribes are searching for Tuareg members everywhere, even in hospitals, to kill and torture them. They have also recently arrested a large number of them, including women.

Tuareg representatives from the Libyan city of Ghadames expressed their fear of physical liquidation by the Ghadamesites, especially after the arrival of a large number of NTC troops who support them to the area in the last couple of days. According to the Tuaregs, the escalation of events have put them in danger, and international intervention is now required to save them from death. Libya has more than 500,000 Tuaregs distributed among the cities of Ghadames, Ghat, Ubari and Sabha, where they have established close relations with some Libyan families.

According to information out of Ghadames, the situation is now stable after a week of armed clashes between young members of local Tuareg families and the Ghadamesites. The latter have waged a war which the Tuareg described as "vengeful." Fourteen people have been killed, including a military field commander named Issa Tlili, and at least 20 others from both sides have been wounded by gunfire. The Debdeb crossing of the Algeria border is now closed and prohibits the entry of escapees from the deteriorating security situation in Ghadames. These orders come from the highest authorities in the country, as confirmed by official sources to El-Khabar.

Now, hundreds of Libyan Tuaregs who have escaped from hell are stranded at the Algerian-Libyan border and suffering harsh conditions. They are unable to enter Algeria since they do not carry passports or other proof of their identities.