By Hadi Fornaji.
Tunis, 19 September 2017:
Zawia refinery and its pumping station were said to be back to normal after an attack yesterday by an armed group.
According to the National Oil Corporation, the group forced their way into the refinery’s pumping control early yesterday afternoon and compelled staff to stop pumping fuel through the pipeline to the Tripoli oil depot. Imposing a siege on the refinery, they also prevented trucks taking fuel to the capital. Both diesel and petrol supplies were affected.
Warning that the action would result in fuel shortages in both Tripoli and the Jebel Nafusa, the NOC later said that as an emergency measure it would be diverting tankers importing fuel to Tripoli port rather than Zawia. It also warned that it was planning legal action against those responsible and called for national solidarity against them.
This afternoon, however, it was reported that following negotiations the siege had been lifted and that the situation was back to normal.
NOC has not said who was responsible and local officials have also been reticent about naming anyone. However, this newspaper has been told that the town’s powerful Ahneish clan was behind the action.
The reason for the blockade, however, has not been disclosed, although it is thought that the gunmen’s demands are about money.
Last month, production at the refinery was brought to a temporary halt and the fuel pipeline to the Tripoli depot likewise closed on the airport road after gunmen seized control of the main control room. Their demand was that the Presidency Council (PC) ensure the freedom for four local militants arrested in Saudi Arabia on suspicion of involvement in the kidnapping in 2014 in Tripoli of Egyptian diplomats. The PC refused the demand.