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FRANCE 24 exclusive: The last stand for Libya’s Oil Crescent

FRANCE 24 | Libyan militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran speaking to FRANCE 24 only hours before his retreat from the oil town of Ras Lanuf in September 2016.

While filming a report about a militia leader allied with the internationally recognised Libyan government in Tripoli, FRANCE 24 journalists witnessed the takeover of a key oil terminal by troops under the command of the rebel general Khalifa Haftar.

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Haftar, a former Muammar Gaddafi lieutenant who eventually turned against the late Libyan strongman, has proclaimed himself leader of the eastern region of Benghazi and defied the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).

On September 11, he launched a major military operation to take control of Libya’s so-called Oil Crescent, a geographical area that includes the country’s most important oil production installations. Hafta’s forces quickly took over the key terminals in Zoueitina, Brega, Al Sedra and Ras Lanuf.

Only days prior to the offensive, FRANCE 24 journalists Jonathan Walsh and Amar al Hameedawi were in Ras Lanuf interviewing Ibrahim Jadhran, the commander of the so-called “Guardians of Oil Installations”. The militia group, allied with the GNA, had been responsible for protecting the economically strategic area from jihadist groups as well as from Haftar’s forces.

The journalist’s assignment was suddenly cut short on news of Haftar’s offensive. “At first we couldn’t believe it, but then the situation became very alarming. We understood that Haftar’s men were gaining ground and Jadhran’s men were retreating,” Walsh said.

Abandoned by their local security guards and fixers, the journalists laid low in their hotel room in Ras Lanuf for three days. They were eventually able to sneak out of the country. “I was afraid they would confiscate our material. I was able to back-up our images on an obscure computer folder and erase the camera’s memory cards”.

The two journalists found safe passage to Misrata, then Tripoli and finally France. Click on the player above to see the report they brought back.

This programme was prepared by Patrick Lovett, Gaëlle Essoo and Claire Pryde.

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