Forces loyal to Libya’s eastern strongman General Khalifa Haftar have killed at least 19 people in southern Libya during their campaign to secure oil fields in the area, Mohamed Linu, a member of Libya’s internationally recognized Parliament, told Al Jazeera late on Sunday.
The forces killed civilians, including children, and set fire to houses in the town of Murzuq, the Libyan MP told Al Jazeera.
Last month, forces loyal to Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) said that they had started a military operation to secure oil sites and facilities in Libya’s south, where the country’s largest oil field, Sharara, is located.
In early February, a unit of forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli was sent south to secure the Sharara oil field.
The Sharara oil field has the capacity to pump 340,000 bpd, but has been under force majeuresince December 9, 2018, after armed militia and tribesmen seized control and demanded ransom to re-open it.
More than two months later, Sharara remains offline, and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), which refuses to yield to ransom demands, said in December that “Oil production will now only restart at Sharara after alternative security arrangements are put in place.”
Earlier this month, the forces loyal to Khalifa said that they had taken control over Sharara and that the oil field was secured and ready to restart oil production.
The same eastern forces said last week that they had taken control over another oil field in the south, El Feel, which hadn’t stopped pumping oil. Production was not affected and continued at 75,000 bpd, a field engineer told Reuters.
On Sunday, NOC’s chairman Mustafa Sanalla, however, rebuffed claims by LNA that Sharara was secure and ready to resume operations.
The oil field is not secure yet and remains closed because an armed group is still there, Reuters quoted Sanalla as saying in a video.