Libya: Islamists fight to take control of key oil ports

SHAFAQNA – A battle is raging for Libya’s crucial eastern oil ports, with an Islamist-backed rival administration trying to wrest control of a vital economic prize in the country’s civil war. Libya Dawn, which seized control of Tripoli in August and drove the internationally recognised government into exile 1,200km away to Tobruk, claimed to have seized Es Sidra oil terminal in Al-Hilal region, which is also home to the Ras Lanuf and Brega terminals.

The National Oil Corporation, which manages the purchase and sale of oil and gas and is not allied to either warring faction, said it was taking measures to stop output at some of the eastern oilfields because of the violence. At least four people were killed in the clashes around the Es Sidra port.

Libya Dawn has already commandeered the country’s southern oilfields, snatching key revenues from the official government. “We have successfully taken Es Sidra and in the next few days we will move on Ras Lanuf,” Saad Mashallah, Libya Dawn’s oil minister, told The Times from his headquarters in the capital.

Pro-government forces, under the leadership of General Khalifa Hiftar, said their own airstrikes had stopped the advance of Libya Dawn troops near to the central city of Sirte.

General Hiftar’s forces also claimed to have seized control over the Western border region with Tunisia after their fighter jets hit Libya Dawn positions over the weekend.

Yesterday the Tunisian authorities closed the Ras Gdair crossing, the largest with Libya, following the clashes.

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