TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Militias in control of Libya's eastern ports are attempting to export oil with a North Korea-flagged tanker that docked at gunpoint Saturday, as the prime minister said his military leaders failed to carry out orders to stop the vessel.
It is not clear why the military leaders didn't stop the vessel docking — in line with previous government orders trying to block militias in control of several of the country's oil terminals and ports since the summer from exporting crude.
Prime Minister Ali Zidan simply said his government has been facing challenges from all sides.
"Everyone is working against the government," Zidan told a news conference, addressing the tanker docked at al-Sidra port. "The defense minister had asked the chief of staff to move (against the militia), asking them to deal with it, but nothing happened."
Leaders of a movement for self-rule in the oil-rich eastern Libya control numerous ports, halting Libya's exports for months. The halt has drastically affected the country's oil exports, while the movement's militia said they have formed a regional oil company and a shadow regional government.
Aside from autonomy, the group in the self-declared independent Barqa region in the east is demanding a share of the oil revenues.
The spokesman for the militia, Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi, said that his group would respond to any attempt to stop the shipment.
Mohammed al-Harari, the spokesman for Libya's national oil company, said Saturday that the vessel docked at al-Sidra could carry up to 350,000 barrels of oil. An oil company official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said armed gunmen forced workers loyal to the government to dock the ship.
In January, Libya's navy prevented a Malta-flagged oil tanker from entering to ports controlled by the militia.
Zidan's government has been undermined by the proliferation of militias around the country, some of which are allying themselves with rival political factions. Islamist, Western-backed politicians and tribal leaders are locked into power struggles which have left post-civil war Libya fractured. Assassinations of public figures and security officials are frequent.
Most of the lawlessness is blamed on militias, which the government is struggling to control even as it continues to rely on many of them to impose order.
Zidan said his government has been in touch with the North Korean government. He said the tanker is believed to be owned by a Gulf businessman, but didn't elaborate.