The Libyan National Oil Cooperation (NOC) said Saturday there were clashes between an armed group loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar and guards near oil facilities in the Gulf of Sirte.

The NOC said in the last 48 hours clashes occurred between an armed group called As-Saiqa and facility guards in the eastern Brega region.

Fighting took place a few hundred meters from oil tankers and armed group members ignored the safety of the oil facilities and employees.

The agency highlighted the importance of removing Syrian mercenaries, Sudanese Janjaweed militias and Russia’s paramilitary faction Wagner Group from oil facilities and urged a restructuring of the safety of oil fields under the umbrella of a professional, independent and disciplined security force.

In a written statement July 17, the NOC also expressed deep concerns about “reports of the increasing likelihood of intensified military conflict, potentially extending to oil and gas facilities.”

Libya, with the largest oil reserves in Africa, can produce 1.2 million barrels of crude oil per day. However, production has fallen below 100,000 barrels due to interruptions by pro-Haftar militias in the past six months.

Since April 2019, Haftar’s illegitimate forces have launched attacks on Tripoli and other parts of northwestern Libya, resulting in thousands of deaths, including women and children.

The government, recognized by the UN as the country’s legitimate authority, recently achieved significant victories, pushing Haftar’s forces out of Tripoli and the strategic city of Tarhuna.

The new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed because of a military offensive by Haftar, who has been backed by France, Wagner, the UAE and Egypt.

*Writing by Burak Dag in Ankara

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