Tripoli: Six days of tribal clashes in a remote desert town in southern Libya have killed 147 people, the country's health minister said.

Fatma al-Hamroush said in a press conference in Tripoli that the fighting in Sabha has also left 395 wounded. Around 180 people have been transported to the capital Tripoli for emergency treatment, she said on Saturday.

The clashes in the oasis region some 650 kilometers south of Tripoli show the fragile authority of the Libyan government, particularly in the isolated settlements that dot the southern desert.

With only a nascent national army and police force, Libya's ruling National Transitional Council relies on militias comprised of former rebels to keep the peace, and the country's vast distances makes it difficult to deploy them to trouble spots.

Deposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi's 40 years in power moreover left behind a patchwork of local rivalries. The Sabha fighting pits southern Libyan Arab tribes that reportedly had close connections to Gaddafi against the African Tabu tribe, which fought against him.

Residents of the oasis say that the rivalry burst into open conflict on Monday after a Tabu shot a member of the Arab Abu Seif tribe, and then a delegation of Tabu elders and armed men going to participate in reconciliation talks was ambushed. The Tabu and Arab tribes fought in another oasis region, Kufra, in February.

Sabha residents say the two groups exchanged fire in with automatic rifles, mortars, and rockets. Tabu tribal spokesman Mohammed Lino said some 70 Tabu homes were burnt and 100 families were forced to flee the city during the past week of violence.

Video posted on Youtube dated on Thursday purportedly from Sabha showed men in civilian clothes and the occasional camouflage jacket armed with assault rifles moving through a maze of mud- and stone-walled alleys, as flames rose from burning cars parked nearby. The authenticity of the video could not be verified.

Libya's Tabu have kinsmen living across the border in Chad, and the defense ministry said on Sunday that it sent a number of militiamen and national army soldiers to the country's southern border in case other African tribes try to join the fight. It also dispatched airplanes to survey the area.

(Agencies)