The Libyan oil terminals in the ports of Sidra and Ras Lanuf are again on fire, and a blanket of leaden, dense smoke has reached the city of Brega. The Libyan company Noc has made a first estimate of the damage: $800 million. In the complex Libyan situation, in these particularly heated days, there are even those (the son of a general of Haftar from Cairo) who accuse Italy of working together with Qatar and Turkey, countries that, for political and economic interests, are destabilizing the country so that nothing changes.
Two large oil storage tanks were destroyed during fighting that for a week has pitted the troops of General Haftar against the militias headed by Ibrahim in Jadhran. The 31-year-old Jadhnan is a sort of warlord of the city of Brega. He had fought alongside the militias of the city-state of Misurata in the revolt of 2011 and became the head of the oil guards, specialized militias for the safety of the oil system. Haftar’s bitter enemy, he was ousted with his guards from the lucrative protection of wells and pipes by the same government in Tripoli of Serraj after losing the first armed conflict with Haftar for control of the terminals two years ago.
On Monday, Jadhran declared that the oil tanks of Ras Lanuf were destroyed by Haftar’s air raids and confirmed that in the offensive for the reconquest of the ports his men are backed by the Benghazi Defence Brigades—”terrorists” according to Haftar—and by mercenaries from Ciad.
The Libyans know very well that their destinies are linked to oil, more than to African migrants. During Gaddafi the country produced 1.6 million barrels of high-quality oil a day, filling the state coffers in addition to the portfolios of the clans in power. Today gasoline supplies are scarce, electricity comes and goes in homes, and wells cannot produce more than 240,000 barrels a day.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini in various interviews Monday affirmed that the Prime Minister of Tripoli Serraj “asked Italy to intervene” and that the government in Rome is ready “with NATO” to intervene “in the fight against terrorism.” Salvini claimed his intention to go to Libya and, referring to the recent conference on Libya organized in Paris by the French president—whose only result was to reiterate the need for parliamentary elections by December—he added: “I don’t understand from what pulpit you (Macron) want to set the elections, we have seen that certain impositions do not work.”
Macron (an ally of Haftar) had a telephone conversation with Serraj on Monday night to obtain confirmation from the main Italian ally of the date of the elections and to reaffirm his commitment to greater bilateral cooperation. Salvini also promised “infrastructures, roads, hospitals,” another 10 patrol boats for the Serraj Coast Guard and detention centers for migrants in Libya.
The Zawia Coast Guard’s commander, Abdelrahman al Milad, is one of six human trafficking bosses hit by UN sanctions at the beginning of the month. Another, Ammu Dabbashi, operated in a detention center. Human Right Watch in a report Monday accused Italy of extending the power of Libyan coast guards while aware of the risks of abuse and torture.
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