By Ahmed Elumami.
Tripoli, 20 May 2013:
The Mellitah oil and gas complex, 22 kilometres west of Zawia, was attacked early this morning by an armed group. A number of soldiers guarding it are said to have been injured including the battalion commander, named as Colonel Gomaa Abdel Jalil. As many as 20 vehicles from the battalion, No. 103 from the Western Military Region, were stolen in the raid, a source at the General Chief of Staff told the Libya Herald.
So far there has been no indication as who the dawn raiders are. However, at the beginning of March, rival militias from Zintan and Zuara fought for two days over who should provide “protection” for the complex, a joint venture between the National Oil Company and Italian state energy giant ENI, the biggest foreign energy operator in Libya. The clashes left one man dead and two injured and forced the complex’s temporary closure.
Today’s clashes have not stopped production at the facility which pumps 17 million cubic metres of gas per day through the 540-kilometre Greenstream pipeline to Sicily. The complex was not damaged.
As a result of the March clashes, the army took over security at the complex pending the formation and arrival of the Ministry of Defence’s Petroleum Facility Guard.
It has been claimed that in today’s attack the army did retaliate to avoid damage to the complex and the surrounding area. However, the Libyan news agency LANA has said that the air force is now patrolling the area to hunt down the attackers.
The Western Military Region forces and the Libya Shield “Western Brigade” were also ordered by the army’s general command to search and find the group.