East Libyan forces advance rapidly to retake key oil ports

Smoke and flame rise from an oil storage tank that was set on fire amid fighting between rival factions at Ras Lanuf terminal. ( National Oil Corporation via Reuters)
Updated 21 June 2018
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East Libyan forces advance rapidly to retake key oil ports

BENGHAZI, Libya/VIENNA: East Libyan forces said on Thursday they had rapidly retaken the shuttered oil ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, where the head of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said he hoped operations would resume in a “couple of days.”

Staff were evacuated from the key terminals in Libya’s eastern oil crescent and exports were suspended last Thursday when armed opponents of eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar attacked the ports and occupied them.

The closure has led to daily production losses of up to 450,000 barrels per day (bpd), and two oil storage tanks were destroyed or badly damaged by fires during the fighting.

For the past week, Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has been pounding the area with air strikes as it mobilized to retake the ports, and it continued to target its rivals with air strikes on Thursday as they retreated.

Ahmed Al-Mismari, a spokesman for the LNA which Haftar built up during his three-year campaign to seize Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, said troops had retaken Es Sider by mid-morning and were clashing with opponents as they advanced west.

Mismari said Ras Lanuf, which includes a residential town, an air strip, storage tanks and a refinery, alongside the oil terminal, had also been taken by the LNA.

“Our armed forces fully control the Ras Lanuf district and the enemy suffered large losses in lives and equipment,” he said.

Libya’s national production was cut to between 600,000 and 700,000 bpd from more than one million bpd by clashes in the oil crescent, but NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said he was expecting a quick restart.

“Libyan production is very low but we are going to resume very soon,” he told reporters in Vienna. “After a couple of days we will resume, we start our operations hopefully.”

The NOC has blamed the attack on the terminals on militias led by Ibrahim Jathran, who blockaded oil crescent ports for several years before losing control of them in September 2016 to the LNA.

The LNA has said the Benghazi Defense Brigades, a coalition of anti-Haftar fighters that previously tried to take the oil crescent and advance on Benghazi, were also involved.

Haftar is the dominant figure in eastern Libya and is aligned with a government and parliament based in the east opposed to an internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli.

He has controlled Benghazi, which lies northeast of the oil crescent, since late last year.


Several killed in attack on military parade in southwest Iran: State TV

Updated 10 min 33 sec ago
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Several killed in attack on military parade in southwest Iran: State TV

  • Paramedics could be seen helping someone in military fatigues laying on the ground
  • Saturday's attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Daesh assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran

TEHRAN: Gunmen attacked a military parade in the southwest Iranian city of Ahvaz on Saturday, killing and wounding several people, state TV reported.

The report described the assailants as "Takifiri gunmen," a term previously used to describe Daesh.

The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the elite Revolutionary Guard, said two gunmen on a motorcycle wearing khaki uniforms carried out the attack.

State television showed images of the immediate aftermath. In it, paramedics could be seen helping someone in military fatigues laying on the ground. Other armed security personnel shouted at each other in front of what appeared to be a viewing stand for the parade.

The semi-official ISNA news agency published photographs of the attack's aftermath, with bloodied troops in dress uniforms helping each other walk away. The attack struck on Ahvaz's Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Saturday's attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Dash assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. That attack had at that point been the only one by the extremists inside of Iran, which has been deeply involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria where the militants once held vast territory.

At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the 2017 attack that saw gunmen carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives storm the parliament complex where a legislative session had been in progress, starting an hours-long siege. Meanwhile, gunmen and suicide bombers also struck outside Khomeini's mausoleum on Tehran's southern outskirts. Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran's first supreme leader until his death in 1989.

Ahvaz is the capital of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province. The province in the past has seen Arab separatists attack oil pipelines.

The assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the Islamic Revolution.