By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli, 19 January 2017:
Hopes of a quick end to the national electricity crisis were dashed last night when an armed group from Zawia again turned off the gas supply to the local power plant.
An hour and a half beforehand, electricity workers had reconnected the pipeline feeding the plant. This followed the earlier release by the Wirshafana of all the remaining hostages from Zawia seized this month in retaliation for the theft of a truckload of tobacco by Zawian gunmen.
Earlier this week, the Wirshefana and Zawia agreed a deal under which the latter would pay LD 1.15 million in compensation for the tobacco while the latter would release the 90 hostages they had grabbed. Zawia also agreed that it would restore the gas supply. As a first step, the Wirshefana freed 28 hostages and Zawia paid over LD 150,000, although this was supposedly to cover the kidnappers’ “expenses”.
Last night, a Wirshefana spokesman claimed that all the remaining Zawians had now been released despite the remaining million dinars not yet being paid because “we felt the suffering of the people without electricity”.
It is not known why the gunmen again turned off the gas supply although blackmail is suspected of being the reason. According to one report, they were from the local Ahneish clan along with some other local militias. Another report, however, says those involved were not militiamen but common criminals.
The drop in output from Zawia power station because of the cut in the gas supply has been one of the main reasons for the lengthy power outages throughout the west and south of the country.