An attack on a central Libyan oil field has left four people dead and appeared to be the work of radical Islamist fighters targeting Western interests, Libyan officials said Wednesday.
The incident, which occurred on Tuesday, comes days after an assault on an upscale hotel in Tripoli that killed nine people. A group calling itself Islamic State-Tripoli Province claimed responsibility for the hotel attack, raising fears that terrorists targeting Westerners were becoming part of the fabric of violence in war-torn Libya. An American was among the victims in that attack.
No group has publicly claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack at the Mabruk oil field.
Mabruk Oil Field
Libyan officials said the attack on the facility was well coordinated, coming from three different directions. The gunmen used the word “kuffar” to describe non-Muslims, the officials said, language that is common among radical Islamic militants but not among more moderate religious groups.
“It’s your punishment for working with the ‘kuffar,’” one perpetrator shouted during the attack, according to a Libyan official briefed on the incident. Officials briefed on the incident said some of the attackers spoke Arabic with a foreign accent.
“The attackers rounded up staff…and gave them a long lecture about Islam,” said another official who works at the joint-venture operating the field. The joint-venture is owned by Libya’s National Oil Co. and France’s Total SA .
The four victims were guarding the entrance to the oil field when gunmen stormed the facility and shot them, the joint-venture official said.
“They were killed immediately,” he said, adding the gunmen also seized satellite phones at the facility. Total confirmed the attack but didn’t comment on the casualties.
The violence underscores the chaos that is gripping Libya as rival factions vie for control of its vital oil industry. On the same day, there was renewed fighting near Libya’s largest oil port, pitting Libya Dawn, a more moderate Islamist group that controls the capital, Tripoli, against a secular-oriented regime based in the eastern city of Tobruk.
The country has been unstable since longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed in a popular uprising in 2011. The unrest has reduced the country’s oil exports and created tens of thousands of refugees.
Total has jointly operated the Mabruk field since 1994, and it once produced between 30,000 to 40,000 barrels of oil a day. Production was shut down in December because of safety concerns, and all French expatriates were evacuated at the time.
The status of the facility wasn’t known on Wednesday.
Source: The Wall Street Journal