Gunmen in Libya have launched a deadly attack on National Oil Corp.’s headquarters in the capital Tripoli. The company said in a statement that two employees were killed and 10 were injured in the incident. Police have blocked all roads leading to the headquarters to cordon off the area.
According to reports, all of the attackers have been killed by Libyan security forces. One of the gunmen was killed by security forces and the rest blew themselves up, according to Wissam Al-Messmari, a manager for the Petroleum Facilities Guard. Security forces smashed windows so staff could escape as they battled the gunmen.
Mustafa Sanalla, the NOC chairman, said in a statement, “The National Oil Corp. will not be affected by such actions, and we are determined to carry out our mission. We will continue with our job and our production normally.” However, reports state that some employees have been told not to go to work until further notice for their safety.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement, the interior ministry said the initial clues indicate that the gunmen belonged to Islamic State. The group claimed an attack on the landmark Corinthia hotel in Tripoli in 2015. They also claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on the national election commission offices in Tripoli last May.
The NOC is the most important revenue-generating government institution in the country. It continues to pump and export crude oil in spite of the sporadic attacks. Armed groups regularly block oilfields to make demands but this was the first attack of its kind against the headquarters of the oil company.
Sanalla has served as the NOC’s chairman since May 2014. Under the 56-year-old petrochemical engineer’s leadership, Libya has signed lucrative contracts with international companies and boosted production from 250,000 barrels a day to about 970,000 barrels a day. However, the output level remains far below the 1.6 million barrels a day Libya produced before the 2011 uprising against former leader Moammar al-Qaddafi.