Libya is reinforcing security at oil and gas installations near its southern border after last week’s terrorist attack in Algeria.
“We must be fully prepared for any emergency,” Colonel Ahmed Al-Kabasha, a senior commander of the Defense Ministry’s petroleum facility guards, said in a statement carried by Libya’s state-run LANA news agency late yesterday.
Militia units from Zintan, a town 120 kilometers (75 miles) south-west of the capital Tripoli, have been sent to border areas in armed jeeps backed by air patrols, Al-Kabasha said. The deployment covers the southern Sahara, where the majority of oil production is concentrated.
Gunman linked to al-Qaeda attacked a fortified Algerian gas plant partly run by BP Plc near the Libyan border on Jan. 16 in a four-day siege that resulted in the deaths of at least 38 foreign hostages and 32 militants. The attackers wore Libyan military uniforms, Algeria’s privately run Ennahar television said on its website last week, citing unidentified officials.
Libya, which holds Africa’s biggest oil reserves, relies on militias created during the 2011 revolt against Muammar Qaddafi rather than trained security forces, said Nicolo Sartori, an analyst at Rome’s Institute of International Affairs.
“Libya seems to be more at risk, simply because the government doesn’t have the same strength as the Algerian authorities,” he said in an interview this week.
The U.K. government today urged Britons to leave the eastern city of Benghazi in response to threats against westerners, the Foreign Office said today in an e-mailed statement.
“We are now aware of a specific and imminent threat to westerners in Benghazi,” it said. British nationals who ignored previous advice to leave Benghazi should depart now, according to the statement.
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three colleagues were killed by gunmen during a Sept. 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.
The Foreign Office has advised since September 2012 against travel to Benghazi and all areas of Libya except Tripoli, Zuwara, Az Zawiya, al Khums, Zlitan and Misrata, and the coastal towns from Ras Lanuf to the Egyptian border.
In June, armed militias occupied three eastern Libyan oil terminals, halting production for 48 hours in an election protest. Production at the Zueitina refinery, 600 miles east of Tripoli, only resumed last week after protesters occupied the site. The disruption cost Libya 350 million dinars ($279 million), Oil Minister Abdulbari Al-Arusi said.
There are several major oil and gas installations close to the Algerian border, including the Wafa gas treatment plant 540 kilometers southwest of Tripoli, and the El Feel, or Elephant, field, jointly run by Libya’s National Oil Co. and Italy’s Eni SpA.
Oil field security is paramount, Al-Arusi said in an interview on Jan. 21: “The armed forces, the revolutionaries, the guards of oil installations and the guards of the borders have instructions to protect the oil of Libya,” he said.