Three days of attacks by supporters of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi have halted oil production in rebel-held fields in the country's east, a rebel spokesman said Wednesday.
The rebels had just begun exporting oil again after a weekslong hiatus in an effort to raise funds for their struggle against Gadhafi, who still controls the western half of the country.
The rebels have a deal to sell their oil from the port of Tobruk through the help of Qatar and use the profits to pay salaries and buy food, medicine and weapons.
"I think we will not depend on oil revenues in the coming stage because our production has been affected in this crisis," rebel spokesman Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga said.
Ghoga said armored vehicles attacked the rebel-held oil field of Messla on Monday and Tuesday and then a day later, the field of Sarir.
While the extent of the damage remains unclear, he said that the rebels can no longer sustain the 100,000 barrels a day they had been producing. By contrast, in 2009, Libya produced 1.65 million barrels of oil per day.
"Col. Gadhafi seeks to deprive us of even this by hitting the oil fields that feed this port," Ghoga said.
The rebels still have about one million barrels in storage in Tobruk, he said, which is being exported through the Qatari deal.
The rebels have responded to the attacks by enhancing security, Ghoga said, transferring fighters from the front line with Gadhafi's forces to protect the oil fields.
"This is our wealth and we have to protect it," he said.
The two fields are part of the massive Sirte Basin region, which is one of the world's largest oil fields and holds 80 percent of the country's oil reserves.
Sarir field was discovered in 1961 and is the largest oil field in the country, with estimated reserves of 12 billion barrels. A pipeline carries its oil north to Tobruk.
Messla, discovered in 1971 and just 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Sarir, is estimated to hold 3 billion barrels of oil.
Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, even more than Nigeria, at an estimated 46.4 billion barrels as of January 2011, according to Oil and Gas Journal.