November 26, 2013 / 9:22 AM / in 4 years

Oil workers join strike in Libya's Benghazi over security

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Oil company workers in Benghazi, eastern Libya, will join a strike of civil servants and private companies on Tuesday to protest against a deteriorating security situation in the port city, an oil official said.

It was not immediately clear how long the strike was intended to last.

At least nine people were killed on Monday during clashes between the army and Islamist militants in Benghazi where the security situation has deteriorated sharply in the past few months.

Militants and Islamists roam the city unchallenged as the government struggles to rein in groups who helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 but kept their weapons.

Civilian servants and staff at some private firms went on strike on Tuesday to demand all militias to leave Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city.

“Staff in the oil sector in Benghazi... will join the civil obedience starting today,” said Saad Fakhri, deputy head of Libya’s union of oil workers.

The strike would affect administrative workers in firms such as Arabian Gulf Co and Ras Lanuf Oil and Gas Processing Company, two subsidies of state National Oil Corp (NOC), he said.

Stability in eastern Libya is key for oil supplies because about 60 percent of Libya’s oil production comes from the region.

Many oil exports from the east have been halted already by seizures or port and oilfield by groups and militias demanding more political rights and higher pay.

Most countries closed their consulates in Benghazi after a series of attacks and some foreign airlines have stopped flying there. The U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in September 2012 during an Islamist assault on the consulate.

Western powers also worry that instability in Benghazi will spill over to the capital Tripoli, which last week saw the worst fighting in months between militias.

Reporting by Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Ulf Laessing, editing by William Hardy

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