Libya oil storage tanks set on fire during IS assault

Libya oil storage tanks set on fire during IS assault

Benghazi (Libya): At least four oil storage tanks have been set ablaze during deadly fighting in Libya as the Islamic State group tries to seize export terminals, the National Oil Company said today.

The clashes, in which at least 10 security guards have died, began Monday as UN envoy Martin Kobler struggles to convince the oil-rich North African country’s rival parliaments to agree on a unity government deal brokered by the world body.

The fires broke out at key terminals in Al-Sidra and Ras Lanouf, located in the so-called “oil crescent” along Libya’s northern coast, said a statement from the NOC management loyal to the internationally recognised government.

The NOC statement did not make clear whether the fires were still burning or if fighting was still under way for a third successive day in the IS push to seize the terminals.

A senior executive with the Sirte Oil Co told AFP that four tanks were still ablaze in Al-Sidra.

But Mohamad al-Manfi, an NOC spokesman, was quoted by the Libyan news agency close to the recognised regime as saying “calm has returned to the area after two days of fighting”.

Ali al-Hassi, a spokesman for security guards in Al-Sidra, said: “We have lost 10 of our men since the beginning of the IS offensive on the terminals”.

Mustafa Sanalla, chairman of the rival NOC management in militia-held Tripoli, condemned the attacks.

“I hope this appalling violence will lead political leaders on all sides in Libya to understand the magnitude of the threat we face,” he said in a statement.

“I encourage them urgently to put aside their differences. We need to unite against this common enemy, not tomorrow or next week, but now.”

IS has been trying for several weeks to push east from its coastal stronghold of Sirte, and officials have warned of crippling consequences if the jihadists manage to seize control of Libya’s oil resources.

Sanalla urged the “swift formation of a national unity government and the establishment of a unified force structure capable of bringing peace to this country and protecting its natural resources.