Africa

Islamic State 'moving to access Libya oil' - France

Members of forces loyal to Libya's Islamist-backed parliament General National Congress (GNC) prepare to launch attacks as they continue to fight Islamic State (IS) group jihadists on the outskirts of Libya's western city of Sirte Image copyright AFP
Image caption IS has held on to Sirte despite attempts by rival security forces to retake the city

The Islamic State group is extending its territory inside Libya, aiming to gain access to the country's oil wells, France's defence minister says.

The group has started to move inland from its stronghold in the coastal town of Sirte, Jean-Yves Le Drian told France's RTL radio.

Libya's rival governments are due to sign a UN-backed agreement on Wednesday to form a unity government.

Libya has descended into chaos since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

"They are in Sirte, their territory extends 250 kilometres [155 miles] along the coast, but they are starting to penetrate the interior and to be tempted by access to oil wells and reserves," Mr Le Drian told RTL radio, AFP news agency reports.

Libya has 48 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves, the largest in Africa and ninth biggest in the world.


Analysis, Rana Jawad, BBC North Africa correspondent

The French defence minister's comments are likely to be a reference to reported attempts by IS militants to expand from Sirte into the town of Ajdabiyah in the east.

There have been increasing reports of the presence of extremist groups in the town, in recent weeks.

What is less clear is if they are affiliates of al-Qaeda or IS.

It is a strategy that, if successful, could cut off oil supplies from that part of the country, where key oil terminals are stationed.

There was at least one failed attack by IS militants at the gates of Es Sidr oil terminal in October, and other smaller oil fields in central Libya have also been attacked this year.


Libya's rival power bases (as of August 2015)

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