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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Oil tanks set on fire during clashes between Libya government and anti-government forces

According to Mohamed Elharari, a spokesperson for the National Oil Co., five oil tanks are now on fire at Es Sider port, the largest oil terminal in Libya.


Libya's Ministry of Oil and Gas said on its website: “It is a disaster threatening the lives of thousands of people. The fire smoke covers the city’s residential area in Ras Lanuf.” Elharari noted that the wind was strong enough that the fires could spread. The total capacity of the tanks at the site is 6.2 million barrels, four times Libya's total daily production. International help is being sought to help put out the fires. Elharari said that 850,000 barrels of oil were lost because of the fires in five storage tanks on Saturday. On Sunday an oil official reported that seven of the 19 tanks at Es Sider were on fire. Fajr Libya has been attempting to take Es Sider (or Al-Sidra) and the nearby Ras Lanuf facility since last Thursday when a speedboat attack killed at least 22 soldiers loyal to the Tobruk government. Another attack was launched on Sunday by the Fajr Libya who are from the city of Misrata, the third largest in Libya and home of powerful anti-government militias.
 In retaliation for the raids, the Tobruk government launched air strikes against the city of Misrata. The government, and earlier CIA-linked General Haftar, launched numerous strikes on Tripoli to little effect, with anti-government militias still firmly in control of the city. Residents claim that strikes hit an aviation school near the Misrata airport, the port, and also a steel plant. Mohamed El Hejazi a spokesperson for forces loyal to the Tobruk government said that aircraft had attacked the port, an air force academy near the airport and Libya's largest steel plant.However, Ismail Shukri a spokesperson for forces allied to Libya Dawn said the strikes caused no damage. Al Jazeera has an interesting interview with Salah Badi, the leader of the Fajr Libya militia. He notes that there are radical Islamist militias in Libya that are a danger:There are some pockets of fundamentalists in Fajr Libya's orbit. But the majority are the moderate ones. For instance the Shura Council of Benghazi revolutionaries is split into two groups: one group supports the establishment of a national state while the other backs an Islamic order of things. The first group, however, represents the majority. They do not adhere to any Islamic ideology, they drink alcohol and smoke as all the revolutionaries in western Libya do. Only the town of Derna in Libya has notable presence of Islamists, although this is the result of Gaddafi's violent crackdown on the Islamists.
 General Khalifa Haftar launched Operation Dignity back in May, attacking Islamist bases in Benghazi and sacking and burning parliament while announcing it was replaced. The parliament continued to meet and his attempt to replace the government was called a coup. At the time, the prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni, who is now prime minister of the Tobruk government, denounced the operation calling it illegal and and an attempted coup. A warrant was issued earlier for Haftar's arrest. Now Haftar heads up Al-Thinni's armed forces and has been given the green light to retake Benghazi and Tripoli. On November 6th the Libyan Supreme Court declared the June elections were unconstitutional and that the Tobruk government should be dissolved. The Tobruk government rejected the ruling and the international community seemed not to pay any attention and continues to support the Al-Thinni government. Haftar did retake part of Benghazi but recently has been losing ground again there, and has achieved nothing by bombing Tripoli. Anti-government forces are now threatening the main Libyan oil ports in the east.
The UN has condemned the attacks on the oil facilities. Earlier they had asked Tobruk government to stop the bombings. The government paid no attention. No one punishes this government for bombing its own people because it has the support of powerful countries such as Egypt since it is fighting Islamist "terrorists" according to their narrative. The latest lecture by the UN on Libyan violence does not mention the continued bombing attacks by Tobruk. New UN-sponsored peace talks are scheduled for January 5th somewhere outside of Libya.


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