ISIS Targets Libyan Oil FieldFebruary 5, 2015 in ISIS, Islamic State, Libya
4 February– Gunmen stormed a remote Libyan oil field, and killing twelve people on Tuesday. The extremists attacked the al-Mabrook oil field, nearly 105 miles south of Sirte. Among those killed were eight Libyans, two Filipino and two Ghanaian nationals. The Philippines Foreign Ministry said three Filipinos were among seven foreign nationals who had reportedly been kidnapped in the assault, however conflicting reports suggest that there have been no abductions.
Abdelhakim Maazab, commander of a security force in charge of protecting the oilfield said that most of the victims were “beheaded or killed by gunfire,” but does not report any kidnappings. A French diplomatic source in Paris and another Libyan official said Islamic State militants were behind the attack. In recent months, ISIS has made gains in Libya and has a stronghold in Derna. The group has reportedly set up training camps in the country’s eastern region, taking advantage of the deteriorating security situation in Libya.
France’s Total has a stake in the site, which is currently off-line, but it is contracted to a Libyan company. The Filipinos worked for an Italian company. Al-Mabrook closed following clashes which shut Es Sider in December. It used to pump 40,000 barrels a day. Total said it had already withdrawn staff from the site in 2013 and had no personnel onshore since July 2014. It was not clear whether Libya’s state-run National Oil Corp had employed expatriate staff at the field. Ali al-Hassi, spokesman for an oil guard force, blamed Islamists for the attack. “The field is outside of our control,” he said. “Islamic State is controlling it.”
The attack on the oil field comes a week after a separate attack targeting the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli. The hotel is frequented by government officials and foreign diplomats. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has held functions in the hotel. Militants claiming links to Islamic State took responsibility for the deadly attack on the luxury hotel. However, officials of the government in Tripoli denied the claim, blaming “Gaddafi loyalists” for the assault.
Libya’s turmoil has deepened as two rival governments controlling different areas, compete for primacy, each with their own armies. Rival armed factions have also been fighting for almost two months for control of Libya’s biggest oil ports, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, on the Mediterranean coast.
The recognized government of Abdullah al-Thinni and elected parliament has had to work out of an eastern rump state since a faction called Libya Dawn seized Tripoli in August, setting up its own administration and reinstating the old assembly. Libya’s neighbours in the region have held meetings to discuss the spread of militants through their borders. The UN is working diligently to develop a peace agreement between the opposing governments, however progress has stalled as the Tripoli government has been unwilling to hold the meeting in Geneva, insisting it be held inside Libya. Talks are expected to resume in coming days.