Scores of people have died in ethnic clashes in southeastern Libya, almost five months after the death of Moammar Gadhafi, underscoring the continuing instability in the North African country.

According to local reports, two rival ethnic groups, the Zwai and the Tebu have fought each other with rockets, mortars and gunfire in the remote desert city of al-Kufra.

The Zwai claim that the Tebu are reinforced by mercenaries from neighboring Chad.

The situation is still complicated today. The Tebu attacked the city with mortars and there were snipers, Abdelbari Idriss, a security official from the Zwai tribe, told Reuters.

But Tebu leaders claim that the Zwai were the aggressors.

Mohammed Laban of the Tebu tribe said he has asked the ruling National Transitional Council for help.

There is a crisis here. There are no doctors, there is no water. Shops are closed, he told Western media by phone.

The number of injured is 117. We couldn't get to the airport because it is under control of the Zwai and we would like the NTC to help by sending helicopters to take our injured to hospitals.

The Tebu are black Africans who have long complained of discrimination and mistreatment from the Zwai, an Arab tribe.

Libyan army chief Yousef al-Mangoush told Reuters that government soldiers might be dispatched to Kufra if the factional fighting does not cease.

Private militia, the type that are engages in sporadic violence across Libya, present a grave threat to the new Libyan government that is seeking to establish something resembling a democracy.

The NTC, which deposed Gadhafi, is struggling to assert control across the vast sparsely populated nation, where militias often serve as the local law.