Haftar forces seize key oil field in southern Libya

Haftar forces seize key oil field in southern Libya
Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army have seized control of the Al-Fil oil field, which produces about 73,000 barrels a day.
2 min read
22 February, 2019
Libyan National Army Spokesman, General Ahmed al-Mesmari, speaks during a June 2018 news conference[AFP/Getty Images]

A force loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar announced it had seized control of a key oil field in the country's south on Thursday.

Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) "have peacefully taken control of the Al-Fil field", spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari said on Facebook.

Al-Fil currently produces about 73,000 barrels a day and is managed by Mellitah Oil and Gas, a joint venture between Italy's Eni and Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC).

The North African country has been torn between rival administrations, myriad militias and jihadists since the overthrow and killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord is recognised by the international community, but a parallel administration in eastern Libya is backed by the LNA.

LNA launched a larger offensive in mid-January against jihadis and smuggling networks. It controls most of the oil fields in Libya's east and earlier this month seized the al-Sharara field.

It entrusts the management of those sites to the National Oil Company (NOC), which in the case of al-Sharara said it will not reopen the field without a new security arrangement.

Al-Sharara typically produced 315,000 barrels of crude per day - nearly a third of Libya's overall output - but has been shut down since a group of guards and tribesmen blocked it, protesting against marginalisation and shortages of electricity, fuel and money. The LNA then took over.

In a separate incident yesterday in Libya's south, the government reported the murder of a security official by armed men a day after LNA forces entered.

Tensions could escalate in the town which is a stronghold of the Tubus, an ethnic minority opposed to Haftar's offensive.

Libya's economy relies heavily on oil, with production at 1.6 million barrels per day under former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi's 2011 removal saw production fall to about 20 percent of that level, before recovering to more than one million barrels per day by the end of 2017.

Libya's vital oil installations have frequently been targets of protests and attacks by groups with a variety of demands.