Libya returns fuel tanker to rival government


Libya’s recognised government has released a tanker forced to dock at a port under its control after originally banning it from delivering fuel to its rival administration, a port official said on Tuesday.

War planes forced the tanker Anwaar Afriqya to sail to Tobruk after it had originally approached the port of Misrata, the air force commander for the recognised Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said on Monday.

Libya’s recognised government has worked from a headquarters in the east of the country since the summer when rival forces under the banner Libya Dawn took over the capital Tripoli and installed their own self-proclaimed government.

The latest tanker incident has underscored how increasingly Libya’s oil infrastructure is at the heart of conflict that Western powers worry is dragging it closer to a civil war.

Forces loyal to the internationally recognised government of Thinni’s government carried out air strikes earlier this month on a Greek-owned oil tanker and a fishing vessel carrying fuel.

A port official told Reuters on Tuesday the Anwaar Afriqya, which had loaded 24,000 tonnes of fuel in Greece, had left the eastern port of Tobruk and was on its way to Misrata, a city under the control of the rival government.
“The tanker was allowed to sail to Misrata after a search established that it had no weapons on board,” the official said, asking not to be named. An industry source confirmed this.

While the Tripoli government is not recognised by world powers, it controls ministries in the capital as well as ports and airports in western Libya, making it difficult for oil buyers and shippers to avoid dealing with it.

Each side has appointed its own head of the state-owned National Oil Corp. Armed forces allied to Tripoli tried to seize the eastern ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, forcing both to shut down.