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Libya oil chief: Instability could lead to 95 percent loss of production

Mustafa Sanalla also confirms a suspected Islamic State group attack on Libya's Zella oilfield
Libya's NOC chief on Saturday warned of potential production losses in the country ahead of a meeting of leading oil producing nations (Reuters)

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) chief said on Saturday that continued instability in the country could cause it to lose 95 percent of oil production.

"Unfortunately, if the situation will continue like, this I'm afraid that maybe 95 percent of production will be lost," Mustafa Sanalla told reporters in Jeddah ahead of a ministerial panel gathering on Sunday of top OPEC and non-OPEC producers.

Sanalla also confirmed a suspected Islamic State group (IS) attack on Libya's Zella oilfield. 

Unfortunately, if the situation will continue like this, I’m afraid that maybe 95 percent of production will be lost'

-Mustafa Sanalla

Two guards loyal to Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army were killed in the attack on Saturday, an LNA source told AFP.

Four guards were also kidnapped in the attack on a checkpoint in the central region of Zella, the same source said.

The Zella field belongs to Zueitina Oil Company, which pumped 19,000 barrels per day on average in the last quarter of 2018 across all its fields.

IS said in a brief statement that it had targeted "Haftar's militias".

The media arm of Haftar's LNA said in a statement a "terrorist attack" had been repelled, but did not give any details.

The raid in Zella, close to an oilfield some 800 kilometres southeast of the capital Tripoli, is the third IS attack targeting Haftar's forces in recent weeks.

At least nine people were killed in a May 4 attack in the southern city of Sebha, then five days later gunmen killed two civilians in Ghodwa in southern Libya.

The LNA launched an operation in January to purge southern Libya "of terrorist groups and criminals".

After securing support from local tribes, it seized several towns.

Haftar then launched an offensive on 4 April against Tripoli, the seat of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

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The LNA made initial gains but pro-GNA forces launched a counter-offensive, resulting in a stalemate on the southern outskirts of the city.

The fighting around Tripoli between Libya's two main factions has created fears that IS could re-emerge in the country.

The militants were pushed out of their stronghold of Sirte by forces loyal to the GNA in December 2016.

But despite losing its main territory, east of Tripoli, IS has repeatedly shown itself capable of launching deadly attacks.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the Nato-backed uprising that deposed and killed Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.