by WorldTribune Staff, September 12, 2016
Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) seized as many as four oil ports from UN-backed unity government forces in an early morning operation on Sept. 11.
Ahmed al-Mismari, a spokesman for Haftar’s LNA, said its fighters had full control of the Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, Brega and Zueitina oil ports.
Mismari said the LNA operation succeeded in rapid fashion in Ras Lanuf and Es Sider because it had won over local tribes before staging the offensive. “This force was being prepared for a long time, and it entered without any resistance,” he told Reuters.
The National Oil Corporation in Tripoli confirmed LNA control of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, while the situation in Brega and Zueitina could not be independently verified, Reuters reported.
Analysts say Haftar’s operation was aimed at halting the restarting of production at the oil facilities which is seen as critical to the survival of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which Haftar opposes.
Libya’s current oil production is about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd), down from the 1.6 million bpd it was producing before Col. Moammar Gadhafi was ousted in 2011.
In a statement released late on Sept. 11, the GNA’s leadership, or Presidential Council, called the attacks an “unjustified escalation” that would “prolong the period of conflict” in Libya.
The ports targeted by the LNA were previously under the control of the Petrol Facilities Guard (PFG), whose leader, Ibrahim Jathran, struck a deal with the GNA in July to end its blockade of Ras Lanuf, Es Sider and Zueitina.
Ras Lanuf and Es Sider were badly damaged earlier this year in attacks by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) jihadists based in Sirte. ISIL is said to be near defeat in Sirte under pressure from GNA forces backed by U.S. airstrikes.