Benghazi smoke
Smoke billows in the sky after heavy fighting broke out Libya's eastern city of Benghazi city on November 3Reuters

Armed men have seized a major oilfield in Libya, shutting down production and looting equipment.

El Sharara, located in the remote southwest region of the country, had been producing around 200,000 barrels of oil per day before the closure.

The surrounding region has witnessed sporadic fighting between local tribes since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The closure of the field is a new blow to a government already mired in political chaos, as two prime ministers and rival parliaments and army chiefs compete to control the North African state.

It will also reduce the Opec-member's production output, which had reached 800,000 barrels per day in recent months, by around a quarter.

The closure could have an impact on fuel supplied to the Libyan capital of Tripoli. The Zawiya refinery, which produces 120,000 bpd, relies on El Sharara and supplies the Libyan capital.

The plant was closed by management after heavily armed gunmen stormed the field late on Tuesday, injuring 13 people in the process, Reuters reported, citing a source at the state oil company.

An oil worker at the field told Reuters that there had been shooting on Wednesday and that some workers had sought shelter in company buildings.

El Sharara is the country's biggest operational oilfield and produces 340,000 barrels a day at full capacity.

The facility is operated by Libya's state-run oil firm in conjunction with the Spanish company Repsol.