Key Libya oil port closes following fresh militia clashes

Key Libya oil port closes following fresh militia clashes
A Libyan oil port has been forced to halt exports, following clashes between fighters loyal to renegade general Khalifa Haftar and rival militias.
2 min read
14 June, 2018
Libya's oil fields have been a key battleground since Gaddafi's fall [AFP-file photo]

One of Libya's main oil depots was forced to halt exports on Thursday, following clashes between rival militias on the outskirts of the town.

Es Sider oil port was forced to close, while loadings at Ras Lanuf were halted, Reuters reported on Thursday, as fighters loyal to renegade general Khalifa Haftar fought battles with the Benghazi Defence Brigades militia to the south.

One oil storage depot was set alight following the clashes with reports that Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) were targeted by airstrikes, as the Benghazi Defence Brigades launch a three-pronged offensive on the oil fields.

AFP reported that the attackers were the targets of air strikes and that the surprise assault had been repelled.

"The army and air force have been tracking down the Benghazi terrorist brigades," who fled the area, the spokesman said.

"The attack aimed to reduce pressure on the terrorists in Derna," the LNA spokesman added.

The two ports were captured by Haftar's forces in 2016, along with the rest of Libya's so-called "oil crescent".

The attack took place when pro-government forces were busy battling to take the city of Sirte from Islamic State group fighters.

Benghazi Defence Brigades are thought to be a collection of militias from those who once controlled Libya's oil-rich region, along with other fighters who fled Benghazi when Haftar took over the eastern city. Haftar controls most of eastern Libya.

Oil production is still continuing, but the clashes bring the prospect of exports halting again, which could bring further woes for Libya.

Crude oil exports stand at 300,000 bpd for Es Sider and 110,000 bpd for Ras Lanuf, Reuters reported.

The Minerva Lisa oil tanker was due to arrive in Es Sider to pick up oil but was forced to wait at sea, the agency added.

Libya produces around 1 million bpd but this figure is way below the previous rate of 1.5 million bpd, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi ruled.

Libya's revolution in 2011 saw the overthrow of Gaddafi but since then the country has been generally split between pro-Tripoli government forces, and fighters aligned to Haftar who is backed by Egypt and the UAE.

Haftar's forces have also launched an offensive on the Libyan city of Derna.

Agencies contributed to this story.