A day earlier, Russian and other foreign mercenaries entered a key oil field in southern Libya, forcing a halt in operations.

Libya's interior minister Fathi Bashagha attends an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia March 1, 2020. Picture taken March 1, 2020.
Libya's interior minister Fathi Bashagha attends an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia March 1, 2020. Picture taken March 1, 2020. (Reuters)

The occupation of foreign mercenaries of the country's oilfields is a threat to Libya's national security, Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said on Saturday.

'Crimes against humanity'

On Friday, mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group and the Sudanese Janjaweed militia forced their way into El Sharara oilfield to halt oil exports from the field, according to Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC).

Writing on Twitter, Bashagha described the occupation of El Sharara oilfield by foreign mercenaries as a "dangerous precedent".

"This is a grave threat to Libya's national security and harms the interests of US and European oil firms," he said.

Bashagha accused an Arab state of complicity in the halt of Libyan oil supplies. He, however, did not name this Arab country.

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The Libyan minister went on to call on the EU to list Wagner Group as a terror-sponsor entity for "committing crimes against humanity".

Libya's permanent representative to the UN, Taher el Sonni called for imposing sanctions on Russian and Sudanese mercenaries in the country.

"Since UN Sec. Council failed to sanction individuals/mercenaries as Wagner/Haftar and others, who violate all resolutions, US/EU should take such actions & freeze assets as any terrorist organization and hold who finance them accountable, we witnessed swift actions before on others with less threat," el Sonni wrote on Twitter.

Oil exports key to revenue

The oilfield resumed production on June 7 after a months-long hiatus which caused billions of dollars in losses.

Libya’s was producing over 1.2 million barrels per day before the shutdown.

On Friday, the US Embassy in Libya condemned the occupation of the oilfield by Wagner and other foreign mercenaries as part of "an unprecedented foreign-backed campaign to undermine Libya's energy sector".

Oil exports are the source of almost all the state's revenues and Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, but nine years of conflict and violence since the 2011 ouster of ruler Muammar Gaddafi have hobbled production and exports.

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Years-long conflict

The Libyan government, which enjoys recognition by the UN, has been under attack by warlord Khalifa Haftar's militia since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.

In March, the government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital Tripoli and recently regained strategic locations, including the Al Watiya airbase and Tarhuna, which is viewed as a significant blow to Haftar's forces.

Read more: Libyan government takes control of Tripoli airport

Source: AA