TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Gunmen stole $55 million in a heist on a van carrying local and foreign currency for the Libyan central bank on Monday, state news agency Lana said.

Ten armed men stopped the van in the coastal city of Sirte carrying 53 million Libyan dinars ($43.49 million) and foreign currency worth $12 million, Lana said. The van was coming from the airport where the cash had been flown in from Tripoli for the local central bank branch.

"The robbing is a catastrophe not just for Sirte but the whole of Libya," Abdel-Fattah Mohammed, head of Sirte council, told Reuters. He said the local authority had asked several times for better security for such transports.

The Libyan government has been struggling since the 2011 ouster of Muammar Gaddafi to assert control of a country brimming with armed militias, gangs and radical Islamists.

The OPEC country's oil exports fell to less than 10 percent of capacity on Monday after protesters shut down ports and oilfields in the west. Similar strikes over pay or political demands have already paralyzed most of the eastern oil ports.

(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

 

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