Fire spreads to more oil tanks at Libya port

Black smoke billows out of a storage oil tank in the port of al-Sider in Ras Lanuf Dec. 25, 2014. (Reuters)

A fire at an oil storage tank in Libya’s oil port of al-Sidra has spread to two more tanks following clashes between pro-government forces and Islamist militias, officials said on Friday.

The militants had launched Thursday surprise attack in which they used speedboats in a failed bid to seize the main oil terminal.

The militiamen belonging to the Fajr Libya, or Libya Dawn, launched the attack on the port of al-Sidra by firing rockets from speedboats, setting an oil tank on fire and killing at least 19 soldiers, security sources said.

Al-Sider and its adjacent Ras Lanuf terminal have been closed since a force allied to a rival government in Tripoli moved east trying to take them, part of a struggle between former rebels who helped topple Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 but are now fighting for power and a share of oil reserves.

On Thursday, both sides reported an initial hit on an oil tank during clashes, blaming each other for the damage.

Since then, "the clashes have hit several tanks which are burning," said Mohamed El Harari, spokesman for the state National Oil Corp (NOC).

Ali al-Hassi, spokesman for a security force allied to the internationally-recognized government, said the fire had spread to two more tanks but the exact damage was unclear.

Hassi had blamed the rival force for shooting at the first tank while trying to take the port with speed boats. The rival force had blamed the other side for using war planes.

The North African country has had two governments and parliaments since a group called Libya Dawn seized the capital in August by expelling a rival faction, installing its own prime minister and forcing the recognised premier, Abdullah al-Thinni, to operate out of the east with the elected House of Representatives.

Thinni accuses Libya Dawn of relying on Islamists. The Tripoli-based government says Thinni's forces have allied themselves with former Qaddafi officers such as ex-general Khalifa Haftar.

The fighting has reduced Libya's crude output to 352,000 barrels a day, NOC said on Thursday. Al-Sider and Ras Lanuf ports had been processing an estimated 300,000 bpd until their closure.

Al-Sider is fed from fields run by Waha Oil Co, a joint-venture of NOC with U.S. firms Hess, Marathon and ConocoPhillips.

 

[With Reuters and AFP]

 

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