At least five oil storage tanks have caught fire (Reuters) in Sidra, Libya, after the self-proclaimed Islamic State attacked nearby ports, killing at least ten guards. The attacks, which began on Monday (WSJ), come as the militant group tries to push east from its coastal stronghold of Sirte and raise fears that it could undermine the financial viability of a UN-brokered peace agreement between the country’s rival governments. Meanwhile, at least forty people were killed after a truck bomb exploded (BBC) in a police training center in the western city of Zliten.
“Libya’s oil industry has been in the cross hairs of violence for the past year, from both Islamic State and the other rival factions vying for power. The country has Africa’s largest crude-oil reserves and the potential to produce as much as 1.5 million barrels a day, but its output has fallen to around a third of that. U.S. officials say they suspect Islamic State is trying to replicate a strategy of attacks against the oil industry already applied in Syria and Iraq,” write Benoit Faucon and Summer Said for the Wall Street Journal.
“Their threat has grown as Libya — with its ungoverned spaces, oil, ports, and proximity to Europe and the Middle East — becomes a budding hub of operations for both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to reach deeper into Africa. And as Africa’s jihadists come under the wing of distant and more powerful patrons, officials fear that they are extending their reach and stitching together their ambitions, turning once-local actors into pan-national threats,” writes Carlotta Gall for the New York Times.
“Some security analysts describe Libya as an arms bazaar. It is awash with weapons looted from Col Gaddafi's arsenal, and some have ended up in the hands of armed groups in Algeria, Mali, Sinai, Gaza and even Syria and Iraq. The armed groups are linked to influential politicians who will have to persuade them to lay down their arms, and join a new national army. They are also ideologically divided - some of them are militant or moderate Islamists, others are secessionists and yet others are liberals,” writes the BBC.
CFR-Daily News Brief