Ex-fighters clash over security at another Libyan oil field

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 20, 2013 4:27 PM
Ex-fighters clash over security at another Libyan oil field

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Violence between rival factions of a force made up of former fighters over who should control security at Libya's oil fields broke out again on Wednesday, wounding several people in what is becoming a common occurrence in a country awash with small arms.

The Jazira brigade of former rebel fighters - now part of a special force guarding Libya's oil installations - said its men on duty at the al-Ghani field, belonging to Libya's Harouge Oil, came under attack from another brigade, the Jawdran.

"They came with around 150 to 180 pickups mounted with weapons, they brought men from other brigades from other towns," Jazira commander Salah Ali told Reuters by phone from the area in eastern Libya.

On Monday, the brigades clashed at the nearby Dahra field which belongs to Waha Oil. That oil company has also seen protests for over a week at another of its fields, Gialo 59, which have affected drilling activity.

In early March, armed clashes at the northwestern Mellitah gas complex halted Libyan gas exports to Italy for several days.

OPEC member Libya has set up a special force, the Petroleum Facilities Guard, to secure its energy installations. The 15,000-strong force is mainly made up of former rebel fighters from the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

But security remains precarious in a state awash with weapons and full of armed groups who refuse to lay down their arms.

"Four of my men are injured, one seriously. I do not know what the numbers are on the other side. It is now over," Ali said of Wednesday's clashes.

He said his men had now left Ghani and that the Jawdran, who are also part of the special oil guard force, were there.

It was not immediately clear whether field workers had been evacuated or whether output had been affected.

Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak confirmed fighting had taken place at Ghani: "This not acceptable because it can affect production and is dangerous for the workers there."

(Reporting by Ali Shuaib; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)