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Middle East Amp North Africa
Libya civil war threatens oil facilities
From the Financial Times of Sun, 14 Dec 2014 13:19:43 GMT

Libya’s seven-month civil war threatened to spread to oil facilities in the country’s east after militias from the city of Misurata attempted to seize control of the important seaside terminal of al-Sidr.

The Libyan National Oil Company said on Sunday that al-Sidr had stopped operating.

Forces from Misurata, loyal to the self-declared Islamist-leaning government of Omar Hassi in the capital, Tripoli, moved east in a 300-vehicle convoy from their stronghold in the central city of Sirte toward al-Sidr.

They were joined by fighters from Ansar al-Sharia, a UN-banned terrorist organisation with headquarters in Sirte and allied with Mr Hassi’s Libya Dawn coalition. Libya Dawn announced they sought to “liberate” the facilities from the control of “apostate gangs” loyal to the Tubruq government.

But they were met at the city of Bin Jawad by forces of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, a tribal militia loyal to the internationally recognised government in the eastern city of Tubruq. Air strikes by the pro-Tubruq Libyan Air Force followed, targeting Misurata forces.

“There was an air attack targeting and destroying Misurata’s main militia points, resulting in the burning of 12 vehicles and the killing of everyone inside,” said a statement issued by the Libyan Air Force. “Right now, Misurata’s militias are trying to reorganise their lines following the big loss that was inflicted by the army and air force.”

Libya’s complicated civil war has already engulfed the eastern city of Benghazi, the southern city of Obari and other points in the country’s west. The Tubruq government’s increasingly effective air power, supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, has begun to damage the ability of Libya Dawn to take new territory after they seized control of the capital in August.

Video posted to the internet showed men firing weapons at unseen targets across a desert expanse in scenes reminiscent of the Nato-backed armed uprising that toppled Muammer Gaddafi more than three years ago. The oil-rich north African country has been struggling to overcome ideological, regional and tribal differences to achieve stability and get its economy back on track.

Proposed UN-brokered peace talks are set to begin this week, but the country’s warring factions have yet to sign up to the process.

The Libyan National Oil Company announced that al-Sidr and the nearby Ras Lanuf terminal had both shut down operations because of the fighting. In a statement, it pleaded with fighters to spare the country’s oil infrastructure from fighting. The two terminals account for 300,000 barrels of oil exports, vital for funding the salaries of Libya’s bloated public sector.

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