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An armed alliance involved in a three-week battle over the Libyan smuggling hub of Sabratha said yesterday it had taken over protection of the Mellitah oil and gas terminal after expelling a rival group, reported Gulf Times (UAE).

An organisation called the Operations Room and its allies have been fighting the Anas al-Dabbashi brigade, a major facilitator of migrant smuggling that recently said it had changed tack and struck a deal with the UN-backed government in Tripoli to stop boats setting off across the Mediterranean.
The fighting killed 17 and wounded 164, Omar Abduljaleel, commander of the Operations Room, told reporters in Sabratha, a town west of the capital Tripoli.

The Dabbashi brigade had been guarding the facility west of Sabratha since 2015.
It is run jointly by Libya’s National Oil Corp (NOC) and Italian firm Eni.
The setback for the Dabbashi brigade creates new uncertainty over the control of migrant flows from Libya.

Since a 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey to block crossings in the Aegean, Libya has been the gateway for the vast majority of migrants trying to reach Europe by boat, and the area around Sabratha has been the most common departure point.

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The Libyan coastguard opened fire on an oil tanker carrying contraband fuel, a spokesman for the navy told AFP on Saturday, reported Middle East Eye.

"The 'Goeast', flying the Comoran flag, was spotted three days ago heading for Abu Kamash and took on fuel via a pipeline on Thursday night, two kilometres from the coast," General Ayoub Qassem said.

Abu Kamash is the site of one of the oil-rich North African country's largest petrochemical complexes, near the Tunisian border about 170km west of Tripoli.

On Friday, the coastguard tried contacting the ship's crew. Receiving no response, it opened fire, hitting the vessel at least twice.

The coastguard fired at the ship with 30mm ammunition, resulting in significant damage to the fuel tanks and engine compartment, the Libyan Observer website said.

A video posted on Saturday on the coastguard's Facebook page shows shots being firing at the tanker, which starts to list heavily and capsize.

Liquid is seen pouring from the ship into the water and a man on the coastguard ship can be heard saying it is diesel.

The Goeast had loaded 9,000 tonnes of diesel and its tanks were "nearly full", according to the navy's Facebook page.

It was not known how many crew members were on board or what their nationalities were.

"The coastguard wanted to send a clear message to traffickers ... to smuggling vessels ... to all those who dare to touch [the resources of] the Libyan people in the future," the navy said.

Libya has been plagued by violent unrest since the ouster and killing of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed 2011 revolution.

The North African country has become a haven for smugglers, including of petrochemicals.

Libyan fuel prices are among the lowest in the world, tempting smugglers with the prospect of large profits.

With estimated oil reserves of 48 billion barrels, Libya used to produce 1.6 million barrels per day before the 2011 uprising.

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Sabha and the south are still without fuel despite promises from the fuel depot in Misrata that 100 fuel tankers would arrive 12 days ago, reported Libya Herald.

Fuel tankers drivers had stopped delivering to the south because of attacks and theft by criminal gangs. However, Sebha Mayor Hamed Rafeh told the Libya Herald a fortnight ago that there had been an agreement to transport the fuel first from Misrata to Jufra in a military convoy with security provided by Misratan forces and then from Jufra accompanied by a detachment of the Libyan National Army.

Nothing has arrived, although this newspaper was told during the week by a reliable source that 40 tankers had arrived in Jufra from Misrata and were ready to move on to Sebha. They did not travel further south, however, and it appears that the fuel has gone elsewhere.

There is no reason now not to send tankers, Mayor Rafeh said today. The road between Jufra and Sebha was now secured by the LNA and safe.

He said that he had again been promised by the depot there would be a delivery of fuel arriving tomorrow, but he did not believe it. He had had too many promises and nothing had come. He said that although the authorities in Misrata had approved deliveries, he believed others in the city were preventing it.

It is suggested that the problem is with the forces that were forced out of Tamenhint airbase.

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