UPDATES WITH INTERIOR MINISTER, UNIFIL STATEMENTS
By Walid Abdullah
TRIPOLI (AA) – Gunfire was heard inside the premises of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) in capital Tripoli on Monday, according to local media reports.
Libyan media outlets reported that armed clashes — and a loud explosion — could be heard inside the NOC’s main headquarters.
“Security forces are currently engaged in clashes with gunmen inside the NOC building,” one local resident was quoted as saying by Libya’s private Al-Ahrar television channel.
According to an Anadolu Agency reporter in the area, forces affiliated with Libya’s Tripoli-based unity government have sealed all roads leading to the oil company’s headquarters.
The attack has left at least two NOC guards dead, a local security source told Anadolu Agency anonymously due to restrictions on speaking to media.
And according to the Tripoli government’s Interior Ministry, the dead bodies of at least two attackers were found inside the building, which has since been surrounded by security forces.
“A total of six perpetrators appear to have attacked the building where they took a number of hostages,” Interior Minister Abdulsalam Ashour was quoted as saying by Al-Ahrar.
The minister added that Mustafa Sanalla, chairman of the NOC’s board of directors, had managed to safely exit the building.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), for its part, condemned Monday’s attack.
“UNSMIL strongly condemns today’s cowardly terrorist attack on the NOC headquarters,” the mission tweeted.
Libya has remained dogged by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of long-serving leader Muammar Gaddafi after more than four decades in power.
Since then, Libya’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power — one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli — and a host of heavily armed militia groups.