Clashes break out near Libya's largest oil refinery

Mohamed Hatem , Sunday 2 Apr 2023

Three people were found wounded on Sunday, one critically, after clashes began on Friday between armed groups in the Harsha neighbourhood west of the city of Zawiya, the Libyan newspaper Al-Shahed reported.

Zawiya oil refinery
File photo: Refining towers at the Zawiya oil refinery near Tripoli, Libya. Photo courtesy of Bloomberg


Harsha residents reported hearing gunfire and explosions on Friday near the Zawiya refinery, Libya's largest oil refinery with a capacity of up to 120,000 barrels per day, Sky News Arabia reported.

Clashes reignited on Saturday evening at Iftar time, as rival militias resumed fighting over resources and black-market interests, Al-Shahed reported.

The violence occurred between armed forces affiliated with militia leader Muhammad Bahron, nicknamed “the Mouse,” and a group affiliated with the Al-Kabwat militia, according to local sources, Al-Shahed added.

Zawiya regularly witnesses fighting between armed groups for power and influence, benefiting from the security crisis that gave rise to smuggling drugs, oil and human trafficking.

Clashes come only days after Libyan citizens formed what they call "The Movement to Correct the Course in Great Zawiya” to face issues plaguing the city, citing “moral collapse, uncontrolled crime, drugs and smuggling," Sky News reported.

The movement’s members called on authorities and tribes to confront criminal militias threatening the security and stability of the community.

Militias exploded in Libya following the February 2011 protests that toppled the country’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

The power vacuum after his fall allowed militias to form and arm themselves using weapons from the old regime.

Though the militias were originally seen as liberators that helped end Gaddafi’s rule, they quickly began fighting over resources.

These forces under rival commanders created a state of lawlessness in the country, hampering security and progress in Libya years after the leader’s fall.

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