Forces loyal to Libya’s deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi, spurred on by his inflammatory rhetoric, staged back-to-back attacks on the refinery at Ras Lanouf, about 615 km southeast of Tripoli.
"We will not be ruled after we were the masters," said a statement attributed to Gadhafi that was read over Syria's Al-Rai TV by its owner Mishan al-Jabouri, a former Iraqi lawmaker and Gadhafi supporter.
The broadcast described Libya’s opposition forces as traitors who are willing to turn over the country’s oil riches to foreign interests. It said: "We will not hand Libya to colonialism, once again, as the traitors want.”
Abdulrahman Busin, a spokesman for the opposition Transitional National Council, said the attack on Ras Lanuf came in response to word that operations were about to resume at the refinery.
But Busin played down the attack, saying that forces allied with the TNC had surrounded the loyalist forces at Ras Lanouf, while a TNC commander said that some 15 pro-Gadhafi troops were killed in the attack.
The TNC military commander said a group of 15 employees set fire to the facility. The port then was targeted by a convoy of up to 40 vehicles carrying armed men. There were no reports of the extent of the damage done.
The attack followed reports over the weekend that oil production has restarted in the North African country, with TNC Chairman Mahmoud Jibril saying output resumed on Sept. 10.
Last week, Libya’s state-owned Arabian Gulf Oil Co (AGOCO) said it would resume operations at its two refineries by late September, coinciding with the start of production Sariri and Mesla oil fields.
“When we have the production, we can restart them. It will be end of September or slightly before,” said an AGOCO spokesman, who also said the firm plans to start production from the two eastern fields on Sept. 15.
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