Protesters close Libyan oil terminal, halt exports

AP News
Posted: May 15, 2013 5:41 PM

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Protesters and disgruntled job seekers forced the closure of an eastern Libyan oil terminal on Wednesday for the second time in six months, disrupting exports, said an oil ministry official.

Deputy Oil and Gas Minister Omar al-Shakmak said dozens demonstrated at Zueitina terminal, demanding the Libyan National Oil Corporation make good on pledges to hire 340 people.

This is the second time protesters have closed the terminal, through which flows 20 percent of Libya's 1.6 million barrels a day of exports.

Zueitina is located 870 kilometers (540 miles) east of Tripoli. The first closure took place in December.

Libya is going through a rocky transition after its bloody 2011 civil war. The central government remains weak and has been challenged by powerful militia groups, initially formed of ex-rebels who fought dictator Moammar Gadhafi's forces during the war. Successive governments have relied on them to maintain security, but they have been blamed for ongoing violence.

Also Wednesday, a Libyan man was shot and mortally wounded during a clash with security forces at a police station in the eastern city of Benghazi while trying to free an acquaintance, witnesses said. They say that after he died in hospital, a group of angry relatives returned to torch the station and ransack its offices.

Much of Libya's turmoil in recent weeks has taken place in the capital Tripoli, where militias besieged government buildings to force the resignation of top officials and pressure the country's parliament to pass a contentious law that could push Gadhafi-era officials from senior government posts. Parliament passed the law on May 5. Subsequent demonstrations against militias have been attacked.

Benghazi, the birthplace of Libya's revolution, has also seen unrest. A car exploded in the Mediterranean port city on Monday, killing at least three people. Initially, officials described the blast as an attack but a day later, authorities said it was an accident but gave conflicting reports. Salah al-Ubaidi, a top commander of the Libya Shield pro-government militias in charge of security, said it belonged to a fisherman carrying explosives used in fishing. Abdel-Salam al-Barghathi, a senior security official, said it belonged to an arms dealer transporting weapons.

A series of assassinations and bombings of police stations in Benghazi have prompted diplomatic missions to leave over the past year. On Sept. 11, suspected Islamic militants attacked the U.S mission there, killing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.