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article imageOp-Ed: Tobruk Libyan government bombs oil tanker in port of Sirte

By Ken Hanly     May 25, 2015 in Politics
Tripoli - The narratives coming out of Libya vary considerably with the source. Prominent western media often offer limited coverage and no significant analysis.
Consider CNN's coverage. It is sourced solely from Tobruk government news media and a source within the Tobruk government. The chief of the air force Saqr al-Joroushi told CNN a ship filled with "mercenaries, weapons, and ammunition" was attacked by a Libyan air force plane on Sunday morning. However, the ship was also allegedly bringing fuel for electricity stations in Sirte, which the Islamic State controls he claimed. He said the unflagged ship was warned off but ignored the warning. Al-Joroushi did not know where the ship or fuel came from except from "the north."
Among the aspects of the situation that the account ignores is that while most of Sirte may be under control of the Islamic State the power station is not but is controlled by the Tripoli government and part of the port is also. This oil source gives much more detail and takes the trouble to actually contact authorities in the area rather than someone responsible for the bombing: "Warplanes deployed by Libya’s internationally recognized government bombed an oil tanker at a terminal controlled by the nation’s rival Islamist leaders, killing one person, the regional coastguard commander said. The Anwaar Afriqya, carrying fuel from Greece, was attacked while anchored to offload the cargo for a power plant in the coastal region of Sirte, Rida Issa said in a telephone interview. The airstrike wounded another person and set the vessel on fire, he said. " Note the details, the name of the ship, where it was from, that the terminal was controlled not by IS but by the Tripoli government and that the fuel was for a power plant; The power plant is in an area of Sirte controlled by the Tripoli government.
The coast guard commander said the planes belonged to General Khalifa Haftar. He is commander of the Tobruk government armed forces. Issa also said: “They apparently believed that the tanker was carrying fighters loyal to the rival Tripoli government." If that is the correct narrative, then the attack had nothing to do with fighting the Islamic State but was directed at the Tripoli government. The report claims the ship is Libya-flagged and is registered to Libyan Product Carrier Ltd. according to data collected by Bloomberg and had loaded 30,000 litres of light fuel for the Sirte power plant at Agio Theodoroi in Greece.
CNN could have checked Libyan sources in English such as the pro-Tobruk Libya Herald or the pro-Tripoli Libya Observer. The General National Council(GNC) or Salvation government condemned the attack: In a statement, the GNC regarded the attack as a criminal offence and a violation to the International Criminal Law and the International Humanitarian Law. A defense ministry statement from the same government gives even more relevant details: The Anwaar Afriqya was unloading fuel at the Al-Khaleej power steam station. Four people were injured in the attack. The statement went on: “The strike has also caused a great damage to the tanker such as the control room and other parts, which were set on fire but then extinguished by the firefighters.” The ministry stressed that followers of Haftar's Operation Dignity, directed against Islamists including the rival government, assaults civilian targets to make things more difficult for citizens in areas controlled by the Tripoli government. The area around Sirte is controlled by the Libyan government. The power station is an important source of electrical power for the area.
The Libya Herald that is often pro-Tobruk notes that there are conflicting reports on the event. It then repeats what the head of the Libyan air force, Saqr Geroushi, had said to Reuters — repeated by CNN-- that it was unloading fighters, and weapons, that it was unflagged and that it had been told to stop heading towards the town controlled by IS supporters but to no avail. He said the ship was on fire. The Herald says other reports confirm this.
The Herald notes that Libya Dawn, the Tripoli government main militia, the state electricity company GECOL and oil industry officials all claim that the tanker was carrying fuel oil from Greece, from 25,000 to 40,000 tonnes to be used at the power station in Sirte. The Herald notes that this narrative is in conformity with information from a maritime tracking website that shows the ship sailed from the port of Piraeus in Greece.
The Libyan Nation Army (LNA) subsequently changed its story claiming that the ship was not carrying fuel for the power station which is still controlled by Tripoli Libya Dawn forces but gasoline for Libya Dawn forces. It would seem that the LNA simply alters its narrative as its previous narrative is shown to be full of holes. It is fortunate that the fire was put out as there could have been an explosion and fuel oil leaking into and polluting the surrounding waters. Do not expect the international community to do anything about the incident. Haftar has bombed Tripoli before and Derna, and a tanker off Tobruk just recently.Maybe the West will call for a UN vote on a no-fly zone since Haftar and the Tobruk government are bombing their own people. When Gadaffi did that the west had to intervene to stop it and change the regime.That will happen a day after Benjamin Netanyahu agrees that there should be a nuclear-free mid-east and asks the UN to monitor the destruction of Israel's atomic weapons.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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