January 22, 2015 / 7:26 PM / in 4 years

Libyan oil workers demand release of kidnapped official

TRIPOLI, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Dozens of Libyan oil workers staged a protest on Thursday in Tripoli to demand the release of a kidnapped official, a spokesman for state-run National Oil Corporation (NOC) said.

Abductions have become frequent in Libya where two governments allied to rival armed factions are fighting for control four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.

Samir Kamal, head of the Oil Ministry’s planning department and Libya’s long-time OPEC representative, has been missing since last Thursday, according to NOC.

Dozens of NOC and Oil Ministry workers gathered in front of the NOC headquarters in Tripoli to demand Kamal’s release, NOC spokesman Mohamed El Harari said. A website showed a picture of protesting oil workers joined by Mashallah Zwai, oil minister in the Tripoli-based rival government.

The internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has operated out of the east since a group known as Libya Dawn took over Tripoli and set up a self-declared government. Both have appointed rival oil officials.

Kamal’s status as OPEC representative is unclear. Thinni’s government did not nominate him for the last OPEC meeting in Vienna in November, officials have said.

But OPEC’s website still lists him as an OPEC representative and Tripoli’s government says he holds that position.

Libya oil sector is caught up in a power struggle between the competing governments, a conflict Western powers fear may slide into broader civil war. (Reporting by Feras Bosalum; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Janet Lawrence. (ulf.laessing@thomsonreuters.com))

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