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Libya lost nearly $68 bln from attacks on oil

ISIS have gained strength and claiming responsibility for a series of deadly attacks and attacking oil terminals and fields

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Libya will fall further into chaos if its factions don’t quickly form a unity government, the head of the state oil company warned on Monday, noting the country has already lost some $68 billion in oil sales amid political infighting.

Mustafa Sanalla, who is in London to attend a conference and get support from investors, made his comments just after the internationally recognized parliament in the divided country rejected a plan to move toward a unified government. The vote underscored the turmoil that continues to wrack Libya.

Sanalla argued that without a single government, there will be “neither security nor stability.”

“This vacuum will permit the other terrorist group and extremist groups to step in,” he told The Associated Press.

The appeal came a week after representatives of Libya’s rival factions announced they would attempt to create a government of unity to stabilize a country engulfed in chaos since the 2011 death of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The United Nations is trying to broker a single government featuring the country’s two factions — the Islamist one in the capital, Tripoli, and the internationally backed one in the eastern part of the country.

With each side backed by its own fighters, the Libyans allied with ISIS have gained strength, claiming responsibility for a series of deadly attacks and attacking oil terminals and fields, the sole source of Libya’s wealth.

“This problem in Libya, it is not so sophisticated,” Sanalla said after the first day of the conference at Chatham House. “We have two factions in Libya. They are not looking (out) for the interests of Libya, unfortunately.”

Aside from the obvious turmoil a dysfunctional government provides, the troubles also mean extremists are gaining strength. ISIS militants have been attacking Libyan oil facilities since the start of the year.

Sanalla said the group doesn’t want to hold the facilities, but disable them. His $68 billion estimate of lost production and exports since 2013 does not include damage and losses from the fire at the big port of Ras Lanuf last week or to any other facilities.

Instead of blaming ISIS alone, he levelled his most harsh criticisms at the Petroleum Facilities Guard, the force that is meant to protect oil facilities.

Describing the 27,000 member force as more of a hindrance than an asset to keeping such sites secure, he suggested that while they may not be directly allied to ISIS, they share the same goal: keeping the country destabilized.

He demanded that the guards be incorporated into a professional and unified structure ISIS will “attack and destroy more facilities.” He suggested that with their ouster, production would be doubled within days.

Production levels are now a far cry from the 1.61 million barrels a day before the rebellion in 2011.