Forces located in eastern Libya announced reestablished control over two oil ports where an ousted faction launched a counter-attack on Sunday, briefly seizing one of the terminals.
The fighting came as the state-run National Oil Corporation (NOC) prepared to restart oil exports from the ports, blockaded for several years.
According to Reuters, the two ports, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, were among four seized by forces loyal to eastern commander
Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) on Sept. 11-12 from a Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) faction led by Ibrahim Jathran.
The NOC said the Maltese-flagged Seadelta that had been loading from storage at Ras Lanuf – the first tanker to dock there for some two years – had withdrawn to a safe distance.
LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said pro-Haftar forces had repelled an attack at Ras Lanuf with the help of air strikes, and were pursuing Jathran forces fleeing from Es Sider, where they had taken control earlier in the day.
A Libyan oil industry source confirmed that the LNA controlled both oil ports.
The clashes raise fears of a new conflict over Libya’s oil resources. Jathran’s PFG had aligned itself with a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, while Haftar is a divisive figure whose opponents accuse of trying to establish military rule.
Fighting and political disputes have reduced oil output in the North African country to a fraction of the 1.6 million barrels per day the OPEC member produced before a 2011 uprising.
The NOC said firefighters were tackling a blaze at a previously damaged oil storage tank in Es Sider, and were expected to bring it under control shortly. Pictures from Ras Lanuf showed black smoke billowing from residential areas.
LNA spokesman Mismari and a pro-Haftar guard spokesman said LNA fighters had seen Jathran in clashes on Sunday and he had been injured in the shoulder. Jathran’s spokesman could not immediately be reached to verify the reports.
LNA forces later advanced about 30 km (19 miles) west of Es Sider to take control of the town of Ben Jawad, said Akram Buhaliqa, a second LNA official. At least four LNA fighters were killed, he said.