Libya’s GNA Defence Ministry Holds Meeting with well-known Oil Smuggler

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Mohammed Kashlaf, a known smuggler nicknamed “al-Qasab”, was confirmed by the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Defence Minister Salah al-Din al-Nimroush, to have been present at the Petroleum Facilities Guard’s (PFG) Headquarters near Zawiya’s refinery.

Kashlaf is known to have been the head of the “Shuhada al-Nasr” brigade in Zawiya and has for long been on the UN Security Council’s sanctions list. He is also a wanted individual for Libya’s Attorney General.

The GNA Ministry of Defence said on its Facebook page: “Based on the instructions of the Minister of Defence, a number of directors of departments at the Ministry’s office visited the headquarters of the PFG, and they were received by its head, Brigadier General Ali Ammad Al-Deeb, and a number of officers and directors of departments in the agency.”

Through the photos published by the ministry, al-Qasab appeared at the top of the first row of attendees. He had not been seen after a long absence following the arrest of his close partner, Abdel-Rahman Milad, nicknamed “Al Bidja”, in Tripoli last October. This puts into question the seriousness of the GNA’s Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha, in fighting internationally sanctioned individuals.

The ministry revealed that the meeting discussed issues of training, work coordination and ways to support the PFG financially and technically.

Al-Qasab has controlled the Zawiya oil refinery for years, despite the Chairman of the National Oil Corporation’s (NOC) claims that he sought to remove Al-Qasab to stop his smuggling and extortion activities.

However, al-Qasab’s appearance at an event publicised by the Ministry of Defence as well as talks about financing him, indicate the opposite.

At the end of its statement, the GNA Ministry of Defence expressed its “admiration and appreciation for what its delegation saw during the visit of the PFG’s headquarters.” It also praised the effort that the PFG’s affiliates are making to secure oil sites in various Libyan regions.

Al-Qasab is one of the richest smugglers in Zawiya and the entire West Coast region. He made his fortune through smuggling fuel from Zawiya’s refinery and selling it at several times the real price. He had disappeared for some time and his profits and activities declined as a result of the oil blockade. Now that the blockade has been lifted and oil output is up again, al-Qasab seems to be back in business.