Libya shuts down 11 oil fields and blames IS

A fighter from an alliance of Islamist-backed militias, take position near Tripoli yesterday. Picture: AFP
A fighter from an alliance of Islamist-backed militias, take position near Tripoli yesterday. Picture: AFP
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Libya’s state-run oil corporation has declared 11 oil fields in the country non-operational after attacks by suspected Islamic State militants, opting for a force majeure clause that exempts the state from contractual obligations.

A force majeure, meaning superior force, is a contract clause that frees a party from liability whenever an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the party’s control takes place.

The National Oil Corporation blamed authorities in the Libyan-capital Tripoli, set up by Islamist-backed militias, for failing to protect the oil fields.

A statement, issued on Wednesday night, said that “theft, looting, sabotage and destruction” of the oil fields have been on the rise despite pleas for the authorities to ensure safety of Libya’s oil installations.

The corporation warned it could take similar action on other Libyan oil terminals and facilities, something it said would directly affect the lives of Libya’s people.

Engulfed in total chaos more than three years after Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi was ousted and killed, Libya is bitterly divided between two rival parliaments and governments and a wide array of militias.

The elected government and parliament have been forced to relocate outside Tripoli after it fell to militias backed by Islamist factions last summer, and set up a base in the country’s far east.

The state-run oil corporation also urged the country’s rival governments to “put state interest above all and stand together against destruction”.

The development came hours after militants from the coastal city of Sirte – under control of Libya’s Islamic State affiliate –stormed the al-Dhahra oil field, about 100 miles to the south. The militants surrounded the oil field from three sides, exchanged gunfire with the guards and prompted the Tripoli-based government to launch air strikes, which ultimately failed to stop the assault.

When the guards ran out of ammunition, the militants stormed the field, looted it and blew up buildings on the facility.

Before al-Dhahra, three other oil fields came under assaults, including al-Mabrouk where ten guards were killed and seven foreigners abducted on 4 February. A week later, on 13 February, the al-Bahi field, about 156 miles from Sirte, was also attacked.

Libya’s turmoil has provided fertile ground for Islamic State-linked militants to set up a foothold in the North African country. The militants took control of cities such as Darna in eastern Libya and also Sirte, and have carried out several suicide bombings across the country.

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