Libya’s Mufti, the country’s top Muslim cleric, on Wednesday called on all Libyans to mobilize and resist the Russian “occupation” of their country.

In a statement, the Mufti’s office said Russia has begun increasing its influence in Libya’s cities, airports and oil fields “in order to take control of Libyan lands and sources”.

“Every able Muslim must fight against Russian mercenaries, wherever they are, and avoid any trade or other dealings with them,” the statement said.

On Friday, mercenaries from Russian Wagner Group and the Sudanese Janjaweed militia forced their way into El-Sharara oilfield to halt oil exports from the field, according to Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC).

The El-Sharara oilfield produces more than 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, forming roughly one-third of the oil-rich country’s production.

The oilfield resumed production on June 7 after a months-long hiatus which caused billions of dollars in losses.

Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, but nine years of conflict and violence since the 2011 ouster of ruler Muammar Gaddafi have hobbled production and exports.

Libya has been torn by civil war since Gaddafi’s ouster and killing in 2011. The country’s new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to a military offensive by eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

The UN recognizes the Libyan government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj as the country’s legitimate authority, as Tripoli has battled Haftar’s militias since April 2019, a conflict that has taken over 1,000 lives.

Haftar has been supported internationally by Russia, France, Egypt, and the UAE.

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

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