Third Oil Tank on Fire After Shelling Near Libya Airport

Jul 29, 2014 1:07 pm ET

(Updates with Italy denial in third paragraph, Canada pullout of embassy staff in last paragraph.)

July 29 (Bloomberg) -- Clashes between rival militias near Libya’s national airport set a third fuel storage tank ablaze as worsening violence in the country prompted the U.S and Germany to evacuate their nationals.

A call by the Libyan government for a temporary truce to tackle the fire was ignored, with militias continuing to shell the area where the fire has raged all week. The government has requested international assistance, and said that Italy had offered to help, a claim subsequently denied by the Italian foreign ministry. “However, Italy continues to evaluate all of the options to furnish aid to Libya,” the foreign ministry said in statement today.

The two-week long battle outside the airport has damaged the terminal, control tower and planes parked at the facility as a weakened central government battles armed groups including Islamists and separatist militias.

Libya, which holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, has been engulfed in violence and political power struggles since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The nation’s oil output has fallen since then, making the nation the smallest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Attackers fired at a U.K. diplomatic convoy in Libya on July 27, a day after the U.S. State Department evacuated its embassy staff. France, Germany, the U.K., the Netherlands and Thailand have also announced evacuation plans or travel warnings. Egypt has asked Libyan authorities to investigate the killing of a number of its citizens in Tripoli on July 26, according to an Egyptian Foreign Ministry statement.

--With assistance from Robert Tuttle in Doha.