By Tsvetana Paraskova
The latest clashes in Libya escalated on Monday when several gunmen attacked the headquarters of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) in Tripoli, and witnesses say that a few people have been shot.
Shots and explosions were heard and Libya’s security forces were cordoning off the NOC office buildings, Libyan TV broadcasters report.
The latest clashes come after a new wave of violence erupted in Libya in late August, with militias fighting government-backed forces around the capital Tripoli.
A member of NOC staff told Reuters that three or five armed men were shooting inside the company’s office building, adding that “several people were shot.”
Local television stations report that Abdul Salam Ashour, the interior minister of the Libyan Government of National Accord backed by the UN, said that gunmen attacked the NOC building with assault rifles and hand grenades and then started taking hostages.
Mustafa Sanalla, the chairman of the internationally-recognized NOC, as well as his office manager, were seen safely leaving the NOC offices, according to Reuters witnesses.
The renewed violence threatens once again Libya’s fragile peace and its oil industry that has just been recovering from the attack on oil ports in June and a subsequent port blockade that reduced significantly Libyan oil shipments in June and July.
As of the end of August, Libya’s oil production held at around 1 million bpd for several weeks, and two smaller fields were ramping up production.
In the middle of August, Libya’s oil production hit 1 million bpd for the first time since early June when the attack on the oil terminals resulted in a port blockade and crippled Libya’s oil production.
The port closure had blocked 850,000 bpd of Libya’s oil (nearly all Libyan production) from being exported from four ports for more than two weeks.
This major disruption resulted in Libyan crude oil production slumping from 962,000 bpd in May to an average 721,000 bpd in June and further down to 664,000 bpd in July, according to OPEC’s secondary sources.
Tsvetana Paraskova is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.