Libyan Oil Guard Head Says Asked To Protect Oil Ports After Clashes

An oil guard official appointed by Libya’s UN-backed government said on 7 March that he had been tasked with protecting oil ports by an armed faction that took over Es Sider and Ras Lanuf terminals.

Benghazi Defense Brigades leader Mustafa al-Sharksi attends a news conference on 6 March 6 in Libya. Credit: Reuters/Stringer.

Idris Bukhamada, recently named by the Government of National Accord as the head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, told local TV that export operations at the ports were continuing and that the oil was for all Libyans.

He was speaking after east Libyan forces carried out air strikes for a fifth day against the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB), the faction that overran the ports. The eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) and the BDB have been battling for control in Libya’s eastern Oil Crescent since 3 March, threatening output from oil ports that the LNA seized in September.

A senior official from Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on Monday that production had dipped by 35,000 B/D because of the latest unrest, leaving national production at just more than 660,000 B/D.

OPEC member Libya was producing more than 1.6 million B/D before a 2011 uprising led to political turmoil and conflict that slashed output to a fraction of earlier levels.

“We have been tasked by the BDB to protect the oil ports,” Bukhamada said, adding his oil guard belonged to the state and had no military mission.

“I reassure all companies and NOC partners that export operations are continuing and have not stopped,” he told Libyan TV channel Al Nabaa.

Since the BDB attacked on 3 March, a front line has formed at the center of the Oil Crescent, between the ports of Ras Lanuf and Brega. The Libyan National Army still controls Brega as well as a fourth port, Zueitina, which lies to the northeast.

It says it is using air strikes to prepare the ground for a counter-attack.

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