Libya strongman’s forces say key oil ports recaptured

Libyan forces commanded by Khalifa Haftar gather near the coastal city of Derna on April 14, 2018 ahead of an operation to recapture the city from jihadists

Benghazi (Libya) (AFP) – A force led by Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar said Thursday it had recaptured two key oil export terminals, a week after they were attacked by a rival militia.

“Our armed forces have full control of the Ras Lanuf region,” the force’s spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari said, later adding that it had also seized the Al-Sidra terminal.

Haftar, whose force is dominant in eastern Libya, announced earlier the same day an offensive to recapture the terminals after a week of clashes that slashed crude output, vital to Libya’s economy.

“Zero hour has passed” to “crush the enemy”, Haftar said in an audio message to his self-styled Libyan National Army, launching the operation in the country’s northeastern oil crescent.

Armed groups on June 14 attacked the Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra terminals held by Haftar’s forces around 650 kilometres (400 miles) east of Tripoli.

The Petroleum Facilities Guard, led by Ibrahim Jadhran, had controlled the terminals and blocked exports for years following the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, but in 2016 were forced out by Haftar’s LNA. 

Last week, Jadhran, whose Al-Magharba tribe hails from the region, said in a video that he had formed an alliance to retake the terminals.  

The LNA, which is opposed to an internationally recognised government based in Tripoli, responded with “a major offensive” by ground and air forces to oust “the militias of Jadhran and his allies”.

Sources close to the LNA have reported that Jadhran joined forces with the Benghazi Defence Brigades, made up of Islamist fighters ousted from the eastern city by the LNA.