TRIPOLI: Troops commanded by Khalifa Haftar, Libyan military strongman, announced Tuesday the recapture of two key oil installations, as fighting raged in Tripoli where a rival government has struggled to assert its authority.
Libya has experienced years of violence and lawlessness since the 2011 NATO-backed ouster of Muammar Qaddafi, a longtime dictator, with rival parliaments and governments trading barbs and militias fighting over territory and the country’s vast oil wealth.
Forces loyal to Haftar mounted a daylong assault by land, sea and air to retake the oil export terminals of Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra, after both sites were seized by a rival force earlier this month.
“The armed forces... have liberated the whole of the oil crescent,” said a spokesman for pro-Haftar forces. Gen. Meftah Al-Megaryef, head of the oil installation guards, also said the two terminals had been recaptured.
Basset Al-Shairi, a commander of the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB), which had seized the two sites on March 3, said Ras Lanuf had fallen without specifying the outcome in nearby Al-Sidra.
In September, pro-Haftar forces had already captured the terminals and two other eastern oil ports in a blow to the authority of the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli.
Haftar backs a rival administration in the country’s far east that has refused to cede power to the Government of National Accord (GNA) working in the capital since last year.
Oil accounts for more than 95 percent of Libya’s revenues.
Haftar’s forces, which call themselves the Libyan National Army (LNA), have battled extremists in second city Benghazi for more than two years.
In Tripoli, fresh fighting raged on between rival armed groups, authorities in the capital said, causing Martin Kobler, UN Libya envoy, to call for an “immediate cease-fire.”
“Civilians at grave risk in ongoing clashes,” he wrote on Twitter.
Gunfire and explosions could be heard in two neighborhoods west of the city center, witnesses said, and several key thoroughfares were blocked, leaving many trapped in their homes.