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Armed Men Capture Haftar-Controlled Oil Field in Libya's Southwest, Largest in Country

© REUTERS / Esam Omran Al-FetoriLibyan forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar ride a pickup truck at the Zueitina oil terminal in Zueitina, west of Benghazi, Libya. file photo
Libyan forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar ride a pickup truck at the Zueitina oil terminal in Zueitina, west of Benghazi, Libya. file photo  - Sputnik International
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The oil field has been under the control of the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives and forces of the Libyan National Army led by general Khalifa Haftar since February 2019, but restarted extraction activities only recently.

The Libyan National Oil Corporation has stated that its El Sharara oil field was captured earlier in the day by a group of armed men led by "so-called brigadier general, Mohammed Khalifa", who claims to be the "guard" of the country's southern oil facilities. It's unclear which armed group "Mohammed Khalifa" represents, but Tuareg and Toubou militias exercise control over the territories adjacent to the oil-field.

"[Armed men] asked the field manager to stop maintenance operations, unconcerned with the dire consequences act for the facility's equipment, which may cost the Libyan state and its partners money, time, and efforts, as well as to thwart the efforts to restore oil extraction to earlier levels", the statement said.

The National Oil Corporation said it ordered employees on site not to follow any orders from the armed men regarding the oil field's operation, saying it will be notifying the Office of the Attorney General, Interpol, and the UN of the situation, requesting assistance.

The oil field has been under the control of the Libyan National Army led by General Khalifa Haftar since February 2019 but started to resume its operations only days ago. The facility faced technical difficulties in restarting operations due to a long pause in its usage and decided to run maintenance to root the problems out. The NOC planned that in three months the El Sharara oil field, the biggest in the country, would be producing 30,000 barrels per day.

Libyans wave the national flag during commemorations to mark the second anniversary of the revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Feb, 15, 2013 - Sputnik International
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Libya has been split between several factions ever since a group of militants supported by western countries supported the ouster its long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi. The Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives supported by the LNA controls a significant part of the country's east and north-east, while the UN-supported Government of National Accord controls the capital of Tripoli and the country's northwest. Tuareg and Toubou militias control territories in Libya's southwest, including those surrounding the LNA-controlled swath of land where the El Sharara oil field is located.

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