Rebels say Gaddafi, not British, attacked oilfield

By Alexander Dziadosz

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – An oil official in rebel-controlled east Libya said on Thursday forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi had attacked the Sarir oilfield, denying a Libyan government charge it was hit by a British air strike.

A rebel official earlier said production at Misla and Waha oil fields, also in rebel-held east Libya, had stopped because of attacks by Gaddafi’s forces.

Oil analysts have been watching the conflict to see if Gaddafi would turn his firepower against oil installations to stifle rebel attempts to prop up the eastern economy.

Tripoli has denied targeting oil facilities, blaming any attacks on rebels or Western-led forces.

Asked whether an air strike had hit Sarir, Abdeljalil Mayuf, information manager at the Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO), told Reuters: “No, that’s not true. There was no air strike. Gaddafi forces attacked this area.”

Mayuf said he had no details about any damage.

The government said on Wednesday a British air strike had hit Sarir oilfield and damaged a pipeline connecting the deposit to the Mediterranean port of Marsa al-Hariga, which rebels used to ship their first oil consignment this week.

A spokesman for the rebel movement based in Benghazi, Mustafa Gheriani, said: “I think it’s silly to think the British would do that. It has Mr. Gaddafi’s signature all over it.”

On the shutting of Misla and Waha oil fields, Mayuf said: “It’s become unsafe for the people, so we took the decision to stop the operations … It’s not safe because Gaddafi’s forces are everywhere in the area of these fields.”

(Writing by Edmund Blair in Cairo; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

Rebels say Gaddafi, not British, attacked oilfield