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Libyan forces chase rebels into Tunisia, clash

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[April 29, 2011]  TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- Libyan troops chased rebel fighters across the border with Tunisia and clashed with them, indiscriminately firing in the area before being captured by the Tunisian military, witnesses said. Tunisia's government expressed "extreme indignation" and demanded Libya immediately halt violations of its territory.

InsuranceThree Tunisians were injured, said a Tunisian witness, Ismail al-Wafi.

The spillover of the Libyan conflict into Tunisia introduced a further complication into more than two months of fighting with shifting front lines. The Dhuheiba border crossing between Libya and Tunisia has been a flashpoint in recent days. The crossing has been changing hands repeatedly between rebels and regime forces.

Al-Wafi said the rebels had recaptured the border crossing on Friday. The crossing has served as an important supply line for rebel strongholds in a Libyan mountain area near Tunisia, home to members of Libya's ethnic Berber minority.

Thousands of residents of the mountain areas had fled to Dhuheiba and other Tunisian border communities in recent weeks to escape the fighting.

On Friday, Gadhafi forces in more than a dozen SUVs and armed with anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers drove into Dhuheiba town, firing indiscriminately, al-Wafi said. He said Gadhafi loyalists were captured by Tunisian troops. He said the clashes erupted at about 10 a.m. Friday and lasted about 90 minutes and that Dhuheiba residents also took part.

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There had also been reports of fighting between Libyan forces and rebel fighters in Dhuheiba on Thursday.

The Tunisian government issued an angry statement.

"Given the gravity of what has happened ... the Tunisian authorities have informed the Libyans of their extreme indignation and demand measures to put an immediate stop to these violations," the Tunisian Foreign Ministry said.

[Associated Press; By KARIN LAUB and MAGGIE MICHAEL]

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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