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POST TIME: 11 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Gunmen storms Libya’s oil firm, 2 dead
AFP

Gunmen storms Libya’s oil firm, 2 dead

Firefighters and rescuers gather in front of the headquarters of Libya's National Oil Company in the capital Tripoli yesterday. AFP PHOTO

TRIPOLI: Armed men yesterday stormed the headquarters of Libya's National Oil Company in Tripoli killing at least two people, officials said, as witnesses spoke of hearing a blast and gunfire, reports AFP.

The attack targeted the country's vital oil sector, repeatedly disrupted by violence since a 2011 uprising against toppled late dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Witnesses said the building near the city centre had caught fire and was rapidly surrounded by security services, who evacuated its staff, including the NOC chairman Mustafa Sanallah.

Two people were killed and 10 wounded, the health ministry said. Sanallah confirmed to the Libya 218 news channel that staff members had been killed and others wounded, some of whom were in a "serious condition".

"The security services are looking for gunmen in the building, but our priority is to evacuate the civilians stuck inside," said Ahmed Ben Salem, a spokesman for the Deterrence Force, a militia that operates as Tripoli's police force. "The situation is under control," he added.

He was not able to provide details on the identity of the attackers.

The Deterrence Force labelled the incident a "terrorist" attack and posted on its Facebook page photos it said showed the remains of suicide bombers.

An oil company official, who asked not to be named, said masked gunmen had exchanged fire with guards and attacked the firm's headquarters.

"I jumped out of the window with other colleagues, and then we heard an explosion," the official said.

No group has so far claimed the attack.

Early this month, days of clashes between rival armed groups in Tripoli left at least 63 people dead before a fragile UN-backed ceasefire took hold.

The attack on the NOC headquarters comes four months after suicide bombers struck the headquarters of Libya's electoral commission, killing 14 in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

The group overran Sirte, Kadhafi's hometown, 600 kilometres (370 miles) east of Tripoli, in 2015. IS was ousted by government forces and allied militias in December 2016, but has continued to carry out attacks.