Forces loyal to eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar launched attacks at ports in Libya’s oil crescent on Sunday and clashed with guards who control the terminals, a guards spokesman and a resident said.
Petrol Facilities Guard (PFG) spokesman Ali al-Hassi said Haftar’s forces had attacked at Zueitina, Ras Lanuf, and Es Sider ports, as well as the nearby town of Ajdabiya, and clashes were continuing.
A port engineer confirmed that Haftar’s forces had entered the oil ports of Ras Lanuf and El Sider, Libya’s largest, and said one of the storage tanks at Es Sider had been set alight in the clashes.
Both ports have been closed since late 2014 but the Petrol Facilities Guard recently struck a deal with the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli to reopen them and attempt to resume exports.
The PFG also said it would reopen Zueitina, but Haftar’s forces, known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), mobilised in the area leading to fears of a struggle for control.
Haftar and other power brokers in the east have opposed the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), preventing it from extending its authority to eastern Libya. The GNA entered Tripoli in March.
No one from the LNA could immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.
Ras Lanuf and Es Sider were badly damaged earlier this year in attacks by Islamic State militants based in Sirte, where they are currently on the verge of defeat by forces aligned with the GNA backed by U.S. air strikes.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation has been removing oil stored at Zueitina because of fears it could be lost during clashes. (Reuters)