The Libyan national oil company declared 11 oil fields nonoperational because of “theft, looting, sabotage and destruction” by “unidentified armed groups,” the company said in a statement late Wednesday.
Libyan officials have sought to blame Islamist militants who have pledged loyalty to the Islamic State for some of the oil field attacks, including assaults last month on the Mabrouk and Bahi oil fields as well as an attack this week on the Dhahra field. That field is about 100 miles south of the coastal city of Surt, where Islamic State militants have established a foothold.
Last month, the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, released a video that appeared to show its militants in Libya beheading a group of Egyptian Christians who had been kidnapped in Surt, raising new alarms about the group’s presence. But the group has not claimed responsibility for the oil field attacks, and other armed groups might have carried them out.
News reports on Wednesday indicated that militants had briefly driven away guards protecting the Dhahra field, but by the end of the day the militants were said to have fled again.
The National Oil Company on Wednesday night declared force majeure, meaning that the violence in the country would prevent the fulfillment of certain contracts with international oil companies.
Oil is the lifeblood of the Libyan economy and virtually the only source of government revenue. But fighting between armed factions has closed oil ports and decimated production in the four years since the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Two warring coalitions of Libyan militias are each backing separate governments — an internationally recognized government and a provisional government backed by regional and Islamist militias.
The oil company said that “if security deteriorates, the corporation will be forced to close all fields and ports,” and it warned that such a step “will result in a total deficit in state revenues and directly impact people’s lives, including with power shortages.”
Source: The New York Times