Analysis - Libya security worries
London, 14 September (Argus) — The killing of US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other US diplomats in an attack on the US mission in Benghazi late on 11 September has focused attention on security as the new government tries to assert its control over well-armed militias. Libya's national assembly elected Mustafa Abu Shagur as its new Prime Minister on 12 September.
The US State Department says the “extremist” assault was “clearly a complex attack”, but it comes against the backdrop of widespread protests against the US across the region, in response to a film seen as blasphemous to Islam.
The Libyan attack has heightened the security concerns of foreign oil firms still returning expatriate staff to Libya almost a year after the end of the civil war. Tripoli has yet to restore oil production to its pre-civil war level of just under 1.6mn b/d, before targeting a capacity expansion to over 2mn b/d by 2017.
Security concerns following attacks and kidnappings in the sector by armed militias has slowed restaffing of local operations. Oil and gas fields — and the foreign workers stationed there — are being protected by local “brigades” that receive monthly wages from the government and operating companies. Foreign firms keen on bringing the expertise of western security firms to Libya have been consistently rebuffed by Tripoli. Consequently, barring a change in policy, foreign oil company reliance on these brigades is likely to grow.
Foreign oil firms say the safety of their staff is their top priority. But none indicate that the latest attack would force operational revisions or changes to plans to return expatriate oil workers to Libya. Spain's Repsol says its expatriate workforce in Libya has returned to its pre-war level. Germany's Wintershall says most of its expatriates in Libya — around 35-40 workers — are already back in the country. BP, whose presence in Libya is limited to exploration assets, has yet to return foreign workers to the country. The company has around 100 Libyan workers on its payroll.
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