Three young men turned a pet monkey loose on a schoolgirl, they were then killed in revenge, and now, after four days of violence, nearly two dozen are dead (numbers cited are between 16 and 20 so far) and 50 wounded in a conflict-ridden Libyan city, health officials and activists tell Reuters and the AP. "There was an escalation on the second and third days with the use of tanks, mortars, and other heavy weapons," one local tells Reuters. Residents say the incident in Sabha kicked off when the monkey, belonging to a shopkeeper with the Gadhadhfa tribe, was set upon a group of schoolgirls walking past, per Al Jazeera. The monkey is said to have torn off a high school girl's headscarf and scratched and bit her—which reportedly led to the girl's family, members of the Awlad Suleiman tribe, killing the three men, as well as the monkey.
"There are women and children among the wounded and some foreigners from sub-Saharan African countries among those killed due to indiscriminate shelling," a Sabha Medical Center spokesman tells Reuters of the fighting that broke out after the initial incident. The Awlad Suleiman and Gadhadhfa tribes (the latter of which the late Moammar Gadhafi belonged to, per the BBC) are the two main armed factions in Sabha and have long had strained relations—not atypical throughout Libya, which fell into "chaos" after Gadhafi was killed in 2011, the AP reports. The strife in Sabha doesn't appear to be over yet, either, says the anonymous local who spoke to Reuters, noting, "There are still sporadic clashes and life is completely shut down in the areas where there has been fighting." (More tragedy off the coast of Libya has led to hundreds dead in two shipwrecks.)