Guards at Libyan oil field protest, force shutdown

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Guards at a southern Libyan oil field have shut down the facility in protest over back pay and are demanding better living conditions, an oil official said Friday.

The official from the Mellitah Oil and Gas complex said that 45 guards on Thursday forced the closure of the Elephant field, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southwest of Tripoli.

The complex is a joint venture between Libya’s state-run National Oil Corporation and Italy’s largest energy company, Eni SpA. The field produces 74,000 barrels a day, while Libya produces 1.6 million barrels a day.

The guards at Elephant gave authorities 10 days to meet their demands, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The guards are also demanding that the National Oil Corp. open a branch in the south and give their tribesmen priority when hiring workers, he added.

Protests at oil and gas facilities have been recurring over the year and a half since the ouster and killing in 2011 of Libya’s longtime dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. The central government remains weak and has been challenged by powerful militias, which fought Gadhafi’s forces as part of rebel groups in the eight-month civil war.

On May 20, militiamen attacked Mellitah’s natural gas complex in the west near Zwara, about 110 kilometers (70 miles) from Tripoli, injuring two guards and stealing weapons and military vehicles.

And in mid-May, protesters and disgruntled job seekers forced the closure of the Zueitina oil terminal in the east, disrupting exports and demanding that the National Oil Corp. make good on pledges to hire 340 people there.

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