By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 1 February 2014:
Sarir power station came under missile attack, allegedly from an army unit . . .[restrict]today in which two turbines were reported damaged, although this is not confirmed. Workers’ residential units at the power complex are said to have been set on fire and two people injured. The nearby Al-Shola oil compound was also reported to have been hit.
According to the Tripoli-based spokesman for the Petroleum Facilities Guards, Walid Hassan Al-Tarhouni, the attack started at around 10am. “A group from 427 Brigade carried out an attack on the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) at the Al-Shola oil compound and the Sarir power station. They stopped some 15 kilometres from the oil compound and started shelling it and the power station with Grad missiles.”
This was confirmed by Salah Mohamed, commanding officer of the army’s 25th Brigade, one branch of which comprises the unit of the PFG responsible for guarding a number of facilities in the region, including the power station and the oil compound.
“This morning, around 32 armed vehicles from the Brigade 427 approached and started firing randomly at the facilities,” he told the Libya Herald. “The shelling started at 10 o’clock and lasted until 4pm. A good number of grads missiles fell into the Al-Shola oil compound, and some other missiles fell on to the Sarir power station and hit two electrical turbines. They also hit some workers accommodation units inside the power station complex. The units were set on fire.”
Station manager Hashem Al-Maliki, at present in Derna, told this newspaper that he had been informed that the turbines had not been hit, only the accommodation units.
They are believed to have been unoccupied at the time. A group of Koreans working at the power station were evacuated last month after gunmen attacked the nearby Al-Sarir farm project.
There has been a series of incidents in the area which are seen as linked to the bitter rivalry some 450 kilometres south in Kufra between the Zwai tribe and the Tebu people. The PFG in the Sarir area are largely Tebu while Brigade 427, which recently took up protection duties at the Man-Made River base some 40 kilometres to the north of the power station, is largely Zwai.
Clashes in the area a week ago saw an electricity pylon being destroyed and power lines cut, as a result of which the Man-Made River has been unable to pump water and there are now water shortages in parts of Benghazi and elsewhere. Production at the power station had stopped the previous week because of security concerns.
“We were surprised by this attack”, stated Tarhouni this evening. He said that it was thought that tensions in the area had been resolved during Thursday’s visit to the area by a delegation led by the Water Resources Minister, Al-Hadi Suleiman Hinshir. Accompanied by the deputy defence minister, a number of GNC members, the manager of Man-Made River company, members from Benghazi Shoura Council and the head of Benghazi Local Council, he had held discussions with the various parties to put an end once and for all to the clashes in the Sarir area and around the Man-Made River company.
“We’ve met with all those involved, although I can’t disclose the full details to the press until the problem is completely resolved”, Hinshir told this paper at the time. However, others claimed that good progress had been made at the talks.
With input from Ayman Amzein