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Libyan airstrikes target group attacking oil ports

The Arab World | 2018-06-18 14:27:00
Libyan airstrikes target group attacking oil ports
Libyan forces carried out airstrikes against a militia attacking key oil ports in the east, a spokesman said as Libya's national oil firm warned Monday of further damage to oil infrastructure as well as environmental contamination in the north African country.

A militia, led by Ibrahim Jadhran who opposes Libya's self-styled national army commanded by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, attacked the oil ports of Ras Lanuf and al-Sidr Thursday forcing the National Oil Corporation to suspend exports and evacuate its employees.

The airstrikes late Sunday targeted fighters loyal to Jadhran, who are trying to seize the oil terminals, said Ahmed al-Mesmari, a spokesman for the LNA.

He said warplanes carried out airstrikes against "terrorist positions and gatherings in the operational military zone stretching from Ras Lanuf to the edge of the city of Sirte."

Al-Mesmari called on residents in the oil crescent area to stay away from "areas where the enemy gathers, munitions storages and sites with military vehicles."

Jadhran said in a video circulated on social media on Thursday that he had formed an alliance to retake oil terminals. "Our aim is to overturn the injustice for our people over the past two years," he said.

The attack by Jadhran's militia caused "significant" damage to at least two storage tanks, the NOC said Monday in a statement. It warned of further damage to oil infrastructure as well as environmental contamination.

The firm called for an unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Jadhran's forces, adding that the closure meant the loss of 240,000 barrels per day in oil production. It advised two tankers scheduled to arrive at the ports to remain at sea until the situation was under control.

Jadhran is a rebel commander who took part in the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed dictator Moammar Ghadhafi. In 2013, he proclaimed himself the guardian of Libya's oil crescent including the ports of al-Sidr, Ras Lanouf and Brega, which represent about 60 percent of Libya's oil resources. His actions cost the oil-rich country billions of dollars.

He lost control of the oil crescent to Hifter's forces in 2016.

Libya descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising. The country is now split between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias. Hifter is allied with the east-based administration that is at odds with the U.N.-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli.
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