Libya says mercenaries threaten national security

Libyan interior minister accused Arab state of complicity in halting country's oil production

Libya says mercenaries threaten national security
Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha

Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said Saturday the occupation of foreign mercenaries of the country's oilfields was a threat to Libya's national security.

On Friday, mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group and the Sudanese Janjaweed militia forced their way into El-Sharara oilfield to halt oil exports from the field, according to Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC).

Writing on Twitter, Bashagha described the occupation of El-Sharara oilfield by foreign mercenaries as a "dangerous precedent".

"This is a grave threat to Libya's national security and harms the interests of US and European oil firms," he said.

Bashagha accused an Arab state of complicity in the halt of Libyan oil supplies. He, however, did not name this Arab country.

The Libyan minister went on to call on the EU to list Wagner Group as a terror-sponsor entity for "committing crimes against humanity".

The El-Sharara oilfield produces more than 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, forming roughly one-third of the oil-rich country's production.

The oilfield resumed production on June 7 after a months-long hiatus which caused billions of dollars in losses.

On Friday, the US Embassy in Libya condemned the occupation of the oilfield by Wagner and other foreign mercenaries as part of "an unprecedented foreign-backed campaign to undermine Libya's energy sector".

Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, but nine years of conflict and violence since the 2011 ouster of ruler Muammar Gaddafi have hobbled production and exports.

The Libyan government, which enjoys recognition by the UN, has been under attack by warlord Khalifa Haftar's militia since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.

In March, the government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital Tripoli and recently regained strategic locations, including the Al-Watiya airbase and Tarhuna, which is viewed as a significant blow to Haftar's forces.