CAIRO (AP) — One of Libya’s two rival administrations has accused the country’s security agency of kidnapping a former finance minister, and a tribal leader said Friday the kidnapping prompted the shutdown of four southern oil fields.
In a series of statements released on Thursday, Libya’s House of Representatives said the country’s Internal Security Agency abducted former finance minister Faraj Bumatari from an airport on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli. He said Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah – an ally of the head of the security agency – is now responsible for Bumatari’s security.
The alleged abduction took place on Tuesday, according to Libyan media, and the minister’s whereabouts remain unknown. Dbeibah’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
Torn by civil conflict since 2011, Libya is divided between two rival governments, each backed by international bosses and numerous armed militias on the ground. The House of Representatives sits in the eastern city of Tobruk, while its rival house and Dbeibah are based in Tripoli.
In response to the kidnapping, the al-Zawi tribe in southern Libya – where Bumatari is from – led the closure of four inland oil fields on Thursday, one of the group’s leaders, al- Senussi al-Zawi.
Among the four sites that have allegedly halted production is the southwest Sharara field, one of the largest in the country, which produces hundreds of thousands of barrels a day, he said.
“Our main demand is the minister’s release,” said the tribal leader, who spoke by phone from the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday.
The other three sites believed to have stopped production are the El-Feel field, the Ibn Tufal field and the 108 field, he said.
Libya’s national oil company did not comment.
In a statement released Thursday evening, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya expressed concern over reports of Bumatari’s abduction and the closure of the oil fields, calling for an end to the closure.
Al-Zawi said he believed Libya’s Central Bank Governor Saddeq el-Keber and Dbeibah were behind the kidnapping because Bumatari was a candidate to replace el-Keber as head of the bank.
Libya’s prized oil production has been subjected to repeated shutdowns for different political reasons and the demands of local protesters in the chaotic decade following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against former leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Last year, local tribal leaders briefly shut down the Sharara field amid a standoff between the two rival governments.
The incident comes as rival chambers continue to mull over a series of electoral laws for possible unifying elections amid mounting pressure from the United Nations to end a decade of political stalemate.
In 2021, a UN-brokered process installed an interim government – with Dbeibah at its helm – with the aim of holding the country to elections later that year. Elections never took place following disagreements over several key issues, including eligibility to run for president.