Two killed in attack on Libya’s National Oil Company

Firefighters and security personnel at the headquarters of Libyan state oil firm National Oil Company, which was attacked on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 11 September 2018
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Two killed in attack on Libya’s National Oil Company

  • The UN denounced what it called a “terrorist” attack, the latest to target Libya's vital oil sector
  • Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi held talks with military commander Khalifa Haftar

TRIPOLI: Suspected Daesh suicide bombers stormed the headquarters of Libya’s National Oil Company on Monday and killed at least two people, officials said.

An oil company official, who asked not to be named, said masked gunmen exchanged fire with guards and attacked the NOC's headquarters in the capital Tripoli.

“I jumped out of the window with other colleagues, and then we heard an explosion,” the official said.

The UN denounced what it called a “terrorist” attack, the latest to target Libya's vital oil sector amid the chaos that has gripped the North African country since the 2011 uprising that toppled late dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

The attack came as Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi held talks on Monday with military commander Khalifa Haftar, who backs Libya’s rival administration based in the east of the country.

Italy, a key supporter of the UN-backed government of Fayez Al-Sarraj in Tripoli, wants to “maintain an active dialogue” with all well-intentioned actors in Libya, Moavero Milanesi said.

Witnesses also spoke of hearing a blast and gunfire before security forces rapidly surrounded the headquarters and firefighters and rescuers arrived on the scene.

Two people were killed and 10 wounded in the attack, said the health ministry.

Security forces evacuated the NOC's chairman Mustafa Sanallah and other staff from the building, whose upper windows were damaged from the reported explosions.

Sanallah told the Libya 218 news channel that staff members had been killed and others wounded, some of whom were in a “serious condition.”

Ahmed Ben Salem, a spokesman for the Deterrence Force, a militia that operates as Tripoli's police force, said the remains of two “ “suicide bombers” were found inside the building.

They were discovered on the second and third floors, he said, while identifying the two people killed in the assault as security guards.

Pictures of the purported remains were posted on the Force's Facebook page.

Tripoli security chief Salah Al-Semoui blamed Daesh for the attack, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) denounced a “cowardly terrorist attack,” calling it in a statement a “blow against Libyans everywhere.”

UNSMIL urged Libyans “to desist from futile side conflicts and come together, in partnership with the international community, to eradicate the scourge of terrorism across the country.”

It was referring to clashes between Aug. 27 and Sept. 4 among armed groups in Tripoli that left at least 63 people dead before a fragile UN-backed ceasefire took hold.

The targeting of the NOC offices comes four months after suicide bombers struck the headquarters of Libya’s electoral commission, killing 14 in an attack claimed by Daesh.

The extremists overran Sirte, Qaddafi’s hometown, 600 kilometers east of Tripoli, in 2015.

They were ousted by government forces and allied militias in December 2016, but have continued to carry out attacks.

Libya’s oil sector has been repeatedly disrupted by violence since the 2011 NATO-backed rebellion that toppled and killed Qaddafi, as two rival governments and a range of armed groups struggle for control of the country's resources.

The NOC was forced to suspend exports from all four of the country’s key eastern terminals after military commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army regained full control of the region from a rival militia in June.

The company declared force majeure on oil loadings at the ports, a legal measure that frees parties to a contract from their obligations due to circumstances beyond their control.

But in July the NOC announced production would resume at the ports of Al-Hariga, Zweitina, Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra, which are conduits for much of the country's crude and gas sales.

Petrochemical exports had accounted for some 95 percent of state revenues under Qaddafi's rule, with production at 1.6 million barrels per day.

But after his removal and the fighting that followed, output fell to about 20 percent of that level, before recovering to more than one million barrels per day by the end of 2017.

On Monday, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi held talks with Haftar in Benghazi in a bid to strengthen ties, his ministry said.


Iran starts Gulf war games, to test submarine-launched missiles

Updated 6 min 48 sec ago
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Iran starts Gulf war games, to test submarine-launched missiles

  • More than 100 vessels taking part in the three-day war games in an area stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean
  • Iran has expanded its missile program, particularly its ballistic missiles

DUBAI: Iran on Friday began large-scale naval drills at the mouth of the Gulf, which will feature its first submarine cruise missile launches, state media reported, at a time of rising tensions with the United States.
More than 100 vessels were taking part in the three-day war games in a vast area stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, the state news agency IRNA reported.
“The exercise will cover confronting a range of threats, testing weapons, and evaluating the readiness of equipment and personnel,” navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, said in remarks carried by state television.
“Submarine missile launches will be carried out ... in addition to helicopter and drone launches from the deck of the Sahand destroyer,” Khanzadi said.
State media said Iran would be testing its new domestically built Fateh (Conqueror) submarine which is armed with cruise missiles and was launched last week.
Iranian officials in the past have threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile US action, including attempts to halt Iranian oil exports through sanctions.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program last May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. He said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
Iran has expanded its missile program, particularly its ballistic missiles.
Iran launched its domestically made destroyer Sahand in December, which official say has radar-evading stealth properties.
The USS John C. Stennis entered the Gulf in December, ending a long absence of US aircraft carriers in the strategic waterway.
Iran displayed a new cruise surface-to-surface missile with a range of 1,300 kilometers earlier this month during celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Western experts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, although there are concerns about its long-range ballistic missiles.