Libya’s Largest Oil Field Shut Down over Pipeline Closure

CAIRO (AP) — Libya’s national oil company has suspended operations at the country’s largest oil field over the “unlawful” closure of a pipeline valve, in a country torn by war between rival authorities in the east and west, each backed by various militias.

The National Oil Corporation announced the move Saturday without saying who was behind the closure of the pipeline linking the Sharara oilfield to the port of Zawiya, on the Mediterranean coast.

“Deliberate attempts to sabotage pipelines and production hurt both national oil revenues and critical power supply for everyday Libyans,” NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla was quoted as saying in the statement.

He added that an investigation was underway to identify who blocked the pipeline late Friday and that the company’s engineers were working on restoring production.

The Sharara oil field, which produces around 290,000 barrels a day worth $19 million, is controlled by forces loyal to Khalifa Hifter, whose self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive in April to capture the capital, Tripoli, from a weak U.N.-recognized government. However, Hifter’s forces are not in full control of the route of the oilfield’s pipeline, which runs partially through territories held by militias allied with the Tripoli government.

Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi. Hifter’s LNA, which is allied with the eastern government, has made little progress in capturing Tripoli amid stiff resistance by militias loosely allied with the government there. The fighting has killed more than 1,000 people, mostly combatants, according to the World Health Organization. Rights groups also say Libyan militias on all sides of the conflict have committed human rights abuses, including abducting activists, journalists and human rights activists.

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