May 4, 2019 / 3:45 PM / in 18 days

Libya's NOC calls for safe return of head of oil union taken in east

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan state oil firm NOC called on Saturday for the safe return of the national head of the oil workers’ labor union, Saad Dinar, who was abducted by an armed group on Monday near the eastern city of Benghazi.

“NOC is gravely concerned about Mr Dinar’s wellbeing. He has not been seen since his seizure,” NOC said in a statement. Dinar is also a NOC staff member.

NOC is based in Tripoli in the west of Libya, home to the internationally recognized government. Benghazi is controlled by the forces of commander Khalifa Haftar, who last month launched an offensive to take the capital.

Reuters was unable to reach eastern authorities for comment.

A source close to Dinar’s family said he was driven to an unknown location by people who seized him at around midnight on April 29 near his home in Suluq, close to Benghazi.

Relations deteriorated last week between NOC, which handles oil and gas exports for the whole of Libya, and Haftar’s forces.

Last week, NOC said several Libyan warships had used the oil port of Ras Lanuf, and that military personnel had entered the nearby Es Sider terminal. It did not say who was responsible, but the two terminals, Libya’s biggest oil export ports, are controlled by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) force.

The LNA said last week that it had sent a warship to Ras Lanuf for a “training mission”.

A spokesman for NOC told Reuters last week that the firm was “concerned by renewed attempts to divide the corporation” and was “particularly alarmed by evidence of staff coercion.”

The statement came after several NOC units and executives in the east expressed support for Haftar’s Tripoli offensive.

Additional reporting by Hesham Hajali; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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