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Hundreds Dead, Injured As Fighting Escalates In Oil-Rich Libya

Libya fighter

Since eastern strongman General Khalifa Haftar ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) to march on Tripoli, almost 180 people have died and 800 others have been wounded in the latest escalation of violence in one of OPEC’s most volatile member states.

Nearly two weeks ago troops loyal to General Haftar started advancing westward on Libya’s capital Tripoli and clashed with troops of the UN-backed government in a renewed confrontation that could escalate and threaten to disrupt, once again, Libya’s oil production and exports.

The flare-up of hostilities helped to drive oil prices last week to their highest in five months amid fears that the renewed fighting may impact Libya’s oil industry.  

Also last week, the chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), Mustafa Sanalla, told the Financial Times in an interview that Libya’s oil production is under threat from the renewed fighting and the situation could become as bad as it was during the 2011 civil war.

“I am afraid the situation could be much worse than 2011 because of the size of forces now involved,” Sanalla told the FT, adding “Unless the problem is solved very quickly, I am afraid this will affect our operations, and soon we will not be able to produce oil or gas.” 

Clashes between Haftar’s LNA and troops of the UN-backed government of national accord (GNA) continued on Tuesday and Wednesday, while the UN Security Council is debating whether to adopt a resolution drafted by the UK and demanding a ceasefire in Libya.

Ghassan Salame, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, tweeted on Wednesday:

“Horrible night of random shelling of residential areas. For the sake of 3 million civilians living in Greater Tripoli, these attacks should stop. NOW!”

“I am deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in Libya in the context of the resurging conflict,” Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), said in a statement on Tuesday.

The escalation of violence increases the risk of an oil supply outage in Libya, despite the fact that the key oil fields and oil exporting terminals are far from the capital Tripoli. The higher risk of further tightening of global oil supplies on top of OPEC’s cuts and U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela has pushed up oil prices over the past week.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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