The 276 infantry battalion went on Wednesday military and security patrols over the areas surrounding Libya’s oil crescent area to protect it from attacks by gangs and terrorists.
The oil crescent comprises vital oil ports that stretch along the coast from Sirte to Ras Lanuf in northern Libya, and extends down to the Jufra district in central Libya. Gangs and terrorists are known to try to move into the Oil Crescent region control state revenues.
The oil crescent has been subjected to several attacks by armed groups, the last of which was in June 2018 when the major Libyan oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es-Sider were closed and evacuated after armed brigades opposed to the Libyan National Army (LNA)stormed them, causing a production loss of 240,000 barrels per day (bpd).
The National Oil Corporation announced that three oil storage tanks were set on fire, causing damage that will take years to repair.
Further, two people were killed and four were wounded in May 2018 in a car bombing claimed by the Islamic State (IS) at a checkpoint about 70 kilometers (44 miles) from Ras Lanuf, one of the ports in Libya’s eastern oil crescent controlled by the LNA in 2016 along with other oil ports.
Libya has the largest proven crude oil reserves in Africa, with 48.4bn barrels, which constitute the main pillar of Libya’s economy as oil exports provide more than 90 percent of government revenue and over 95 percent of export earnings, according to British Petroleum Statistical Review of World Energy released in June 2018.
Ongoing instability and the vulnerability of oil infrastructure due to oil worker strikes and the attacks by armed groups have largely hindered Libya’s oil production and halved Libya’s oil export, although oil production experienced a significant increase in 2017.
This has caused a dramatic drop in hard currency revenues and a shock to an economy, heavily dependent on imports of consumer goods, causing an increase in prices.
The battle for the control of oil resources is at the center of a conflict between power brokers since 2011 uprising, alongside armed groups fighting to destabilize Libya and strengthen their grip over oil fields.
There have been two major factions on the ground fighting for the power since 2014; one led by Khalifa Haftar, commander of the LNA, who now controls the eastern side of Libya in cooperation with the government of the House of Representatives (HoR), also known as the Tobruk government.
The other is led by Faiez Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord of the General National Congress (GNC).