Fuel Smuggling Escalates Amidst Silence from the GNA – SPECIAL REPORT – Al Marsad

Evidence from the local population, photos and satellite images show another kind of war waged by criminals as Al Marsad reveals massive fuel smuggling taking place south of Tripoli without any action taken against it by the Government of National Accord (GNA).

[Libya, 3 June 2019] – As fuel shortage at petrol stations in Tripoli grows worse despite GNA’s promises to solve it by forming a crisis committee as the war escalates in the outskirts of the city, criminal militias however continue to wage another kind of war on the country.

Criminal militias are opening illegal fuel stations in broad daylight on the sides of roads south of Zawiyah, making money off citizens who are already suffering from an increase in prices in many cities such as Sorman, Sabratah and Zintan. The municipalities of these cities, in addition to others in Tarhuna and Gharyan, say that this comes as a collective punishment from the government, especially the Ministry of Interior Affairs, inflicted on their regions for having broken with their authority.

Photographs taken by citizens of these makeshift stations over the last few hours show old pumping machines linked to tanks over, and under, the ground, which are commonly referred to as “jebyas”. Smugglers pour the fuel they get from the Zawiyah Refinery in these tanks and then sell it for 90 cents or a dinar per litre. The only explanation for this trade to go public at this particular moment is the disruption in trafficking to neighbouring countries, as major smugglers are occupied elsewhere, or perhaps because they are in dire need of cash due to the war.

Some citizens, who had to buy fuel from these illegal makeshift stations, said that the majority of stations are on the main road south of Zawiyah, in the Hararat region, home to Khaled Al Mishri, President of the State Council. They also stated that such activities no longer take place in secret, but openly on roads.

Tripoli’s Attorney General recently issued a list of 124 names of the most wanted criminal traffickers in the west, mainly from Zawiyah and Sabratah. Among these traffickers is the internationally sanctioned Mohammed Kashlaf, also known as “Al Kassab”, who still controls Al Zawiyah Refinery without any real action by the National Oil Corporation (NOC) to retrieve this facility, as was the case in El Sharara oil fields, for instance, despite claims of calling for international action against him.

Trafficker Al Kassab (left) with Trafficker Al Bija (right)

European and international reports, including reports of the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, state that a portion of the money made in fuel trafficking helps fund terrorism, militias, human traffickers and all sorts of illegal immigration. However, the majority of arrest warrants issued in Tripoli could not be pursued as the authorities seem either to be somehow involved with the traffickers, or are related to them, or are unable to face these networks as they are well-funded and well-armed.

Furthermore, dozens of fuel and human traffickers are taking part in the fights in Tripoli. Cameras have caught their participation in the conflicts, including the internationally sanctioned Abdulrahman Milad, aka “Al Bija”, in addition to Al Kassab’s group, including the group following the also internationally sanctioned Ahmad Al Dabbashi, aka “Al Ammou”.

The trafficker Al Bija (red), the Tripoli Fighting Axis leader Firas Al Selougui a.k.a. Al Wahshi (the Savage) (black). May 2019.

One of these traffickers is Salem Al Maktouf, who appeared a week ago at an iftar (Ramadan evening meal), accompanied by leading trafficking baron in Zawiyah, Ali Al Shalladi, aka “Al Bawarji”.

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The two appeared together on a number of occasions and have a network that stretches from Zawiyah to Zuwarah, Al Jumayl, and Regdalin along the Tunisian border and across the mountains to the south—all the way to the Nalut and Wazen crossing.

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International Warning

Towards the end of April this year, the Special Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the Central Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, stated that almost no migrants have left Libya since the conflict broke out. The EU asked the Government of National Accord (GNA) not to deal with terrorists, traffickers and wanted individuals. However, these calls seem to fall on deaf ears, observers say.

Cochetel tweeted on Thursday that, “it is remarkable to note that in spite of the war in Tripoli no boats with migrants & refugees are leaving.”

The same UN official explained this by the fact that the “militias known for their involvement in human trafficking are too busy fighting for their survival.”

He concluded his tweet posing the question: “Who let them operate before in total impunity?” referring to them fighting now for GNA despite the atrocities they committed, with the thousands who have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea over the last few years.

Satellites see what the government does not

Finally, satellite images, via the last update of Google Maps, unveiled dozens of hideouts and storage caves for fuel in Al Hararat south of Zawiyah and in the regions of Batten Al Jabal, Nalut and others. These maps showed dozens of tanks in all of the aforementioned sites, in addition to fuel residue on the soil and storage locations.

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ALMARSAD documented in 2017 one of the operations of fuel smuggling routes from the west, starting at Al Zawiyah Refinery through the Western Mountain to the assembly, discharge, and filling point in Al Juwaybeyyah region near Nalut, and from there to Tunisia.

The storage sites are known among traffickers as the “bocas”, which consist of concrete holes dug in the ground that are used for discharging a truck into another mobile tank or to a ground tanks known as a “jabiyah”, as it looks like the jabiyahs (water ponds) used in farming.


Here are satellite photos and maps of these locations south of Zawiyah, Zuwarah, Batten al Jabel, Nalut, and others:


© Al Marsad English. 2019.