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Militias Armed And Ready As Libya’s New NOC Lifts Oil Blockade

Militias mobilized overnight in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, as tensions rise amid the take-over of the National Oil Company (NOC) and the alleged lifting of force majeure at all oilfield and export terminals. 

On Sunday, the new chairman of the NOC, Farhat Bengdara (bin Qadara), made an official statement ending the blockade of Libya’s oilfields and ports. The announcement came just days after armed forces entered the NOC headquarters in an attempt to force the resignation of long-time chairman Mustafa Sanalla. 

Bengdara said on Sunday that he had issued instructions to relaunch production after meeting with tribal leaders and other powerbrokers in the country’s ‘Oil Crescent’. 

“NOC appreciates the efforts made by all local and international parties and pledges to adhere to professional and non-political constants and it will continue to perform its duties in all impartiality”, Bengdara said.  

Sanalla has not been heard from since Thursday, when he accused the Government of National Unity’s (GNU) interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah of colluding with external forces in the “illegitimate” act of occupying the NOC. 

The NOC’s website and social media accounts have not published any new information since the storming of its headquarters. 

What remains unclear at this time is how the new NOC chairman managed to cut a deal with protesters blocking the country’s oil production and leading to force majeure. Dbeibah, whose own mandate as prime minister is in question, issued the decree for the removal of Sanalla and the entire NOC board of directors. The protesters responsible for the blockade were also calling for Dbeibah’s resignation. 

Alliances, both political and militia, appear to be shifting and this is leading to a tense situation in Tripoli, where armed clashes were narrowly averted last night, when militias from two different areas descended on the capital. Those militias, according to local media, contain elements that support Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed new prime minister by the Parliament in March, and elements that oppose Bashagha.

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By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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