Libya extinguishes fire at biggest oil terminal after 9 days

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Friday, January 2, 2015

Fires at seven storage tanks at one of Libya's main oil terminal have been put out, officials said Friday, nine days after they were set off by a militia rocket.

A rocket fired on December 25 by Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn), a coalition of Islamist-backed fighters, ignited the first fire which then spread to six other tanks at Sidra oil terminal.

"The fires have been extinguished in all seven tanks that were ablaze after raging out of control for nine days," said Ali al-Hassi, security spokesman for the so-called "oil crescent" in eastern Libya.

Around 70 volunteer firefighters helped put out the flames with help from employees from local oil companies under tough conditions, while pro-government forces and militias fought nearby, Hassi said.

The attack left 22 pro-government soldiers dead, most of whom belonging to the 136th battalion responsible for monitoring a power plant west of Sirte

Sidra is one of Libya's key oil terminal with Ras Lanuf and Brega also in the "oil crescent."

There are 19 storage tanks at Sidra with a total capacity of 6.2 million barrels of oil.

Experts have said Libya's oil production dropped to less than 350,000 barrels per day from 800,000 previously, since clashes around the export terminals erupted on December 13.

Fighters from Fajr Libya, which controls much of Tripoli, as well as second and third cities Benghazi and Misrata, have been trying to seize Sidra and Ras Lanuf terminals.

Hassi said fires caused “huge" losses, but gave no estimates.

On Monday, Libya's internationally recognized government approved a $6 million (4.9 million euro) deal with a US firm to send experts to extinguish the fires.

"At least that money has been now saved since we managed to put out the fires locally," said Hassi.

The militias trying to seize control of the oil terminals have launched attacks from the city of Bin Jawad, east of Sidra.

On Friday, Hassi said that Bin Jawad was declared "a closed military zone" by the army command, ahead of an offensive against the militias.

"The Libyan army is preparing to launch a military assault to clean up the city of armed group who have been using it as a launchpad to attack oil installations," said Hassi.

Almost four years after a NATO-backed war ended Muammar Gaddafi's one-man rule in 2011, Libya is struggling with instability as two rival administrations compete for power and warring armed factions skirmish for control of territory across the North African state.

Current conflicts forced tens of thousands to leave Benghazi and also caused frequent fuel, power and water shortages, increased food prices and damaged infrastructure.

The fighting in Benghazi is only one element of the turmoil sweeping the North African country. Two rival governments, each with its own parliament and army, claim legitimacy, almost four years after a NATO-backed war ended Muammar Gaddafi's one-man rule in 2011.

In August, Thani and his cabinet were forced to leave Tripoli for the east when militants from Fajr Libya seized the capital. The new rulers of Tripoli have set up their own administration, the General National Congress (GNC), which has not been recognized by the United Nations and world powers.

Amnesty International said in a report late October that both pro-government and rebel militias vying for control of western Libya are committing war crimes including torturing detainees and targeting civilians.

According to Amnesty, militias in the west showed "an utter disregard" for civilian casualties and accused them of indiscriminately lobbing artillery fire into crowded civilian neighborhoods, damaging homes and hospitals.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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