East Libyan forces said they had regained control on Tuesday of the major oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider from a rival faction that seized them earlier this month.
Military spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari told Reuters the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) had taken back the ports and was pursuing fighters from the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) towards the town of Ben Jawad, about 30 km (20 miles) west of Es Sider.
The claim could not be independently verified.
The BDB’s advance on Es Sider and Ras Lanuf on March 3 set off a fresh round of fighting for control of the ports in Libya’s Oil Crescent, a strip of coast southwest of Benghazi, raising fears of an escalation of violence and a reversal for the OPEC member state’s efforts to revive its oil output.
The LNA and the BDB are on opposite sides in a stop-start conflict between factions based in eastern and western Libya that erupted in 2014.
The LNA took control of the Oil Crescent ports in September, ending a long blockade in the area and allowing the National Oil Corporation (NOC) to more than double Libya’s oil production.
It has been mobilising ground forces and carrying out air strikes for 10 days as it prepared a counter-attack.
Akram Buhaliqa, an LNA commander in the nearby city of Ajdabiya, said ground, air and naval forces had been deployed in Tuesday’s offensive.
He said BDB fighters shut off the coastal road between Es Sider and Ras Lanuf as they tried to halt the LNA’s advance.
Another military official confirmed earlier that the LNA had carried out air strikes near Ras Lanuf.
Since the BDB overran Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, national production has dipped again from about 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 615,000 bpd due to a disruption of operations at the ports.
The ports are two of the largest in Libya, with a combined potential capacity of about 600,000 bpd, but both were badly damaged in previous rounds of fighting and were operating at a fraction of pre-conflict levels.
The LNA retained control of Brega and Zueitina, the two ports closest to Benghazi.
The United Nations said on Tuesday the latest fighting around the Oil Crescent had been marked by human rights violations including unlawful killings and arbitrary detentions.
Date created : 2017-03-14