Singapore, Dec 26: Oil prices rose in Asia today as dealers reacted to a surprise Islamist attack on Libya's main oil terminals that left 22 soldiers dead. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February delivery rose 28 cents to USD 56.12 in mid-morning trade, while Brent for February gained 13 cents to USD 60.37.
Trading volumes in Asia were thinner than usual with major regional financial markets including Hong Kong and Australia closed today. US and European stock markets will also be shut for the Boxing Day holiday.
The attack in Libya's oil-rich region yesterday, saw militiamen belonging to the Fajr Libya, or Libya Dawn, target Al-Sidra port by firing rockets from speedboats, setting an oil tank on fire, security forces said. Soldiers damaged three of the vessels before clashes in which the militants were eventually repelled. Witnesses said the attack was launched overnight, and reported seeing smoke from the burning oil tank.
Military and medical sources said 18 soldiers and a Fajr Libya fighter were killed yesterday in fighting in Sirte, and another four soldiers slain in Al-Sidra. Al-Sidra is located in the country's "oil crescent" region that has been the scene of recent fighting between government forces and Fajr Libya. Since fresh clashes between government forces and the jihadists erupted on December 13, Libya's oil production has dropped to nearly 350,000 barrels per day compared with 800,000 previously, according to industry experts. Production in Libya, a member of the OPEC oil-producing cartel, has only just started to rise following a prolonged disruption due to civil unrest.