Africa 15.3.2017 11:25 am

Libyan National Army loses 21 soldiers in fight to retake oil terminals

Former rebel fighters now intergrated into the Libyan army and guard the western entrance of the capital Tripoli on May 19, 2014

Former rebel fighters now intergrated into the Libyan army and guard the western entrance of the capital Tripoli on May 19, 2014

Foreign ambassadors to Libya have called for an end to hostilities in the Oil Crescent to protect the country’s most critical oil assets.

The bloody fighting between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) for control of two oil terminals in eastern Libya has cost the lives of 21 LNA soldiers.

The bodies of the 21 soldiers were brought to hospitals in Benghazi and Ajdabiya on Tuesday after the LNA succeeded in recapturing the Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil terminals from the BDB after the latter wrested the terminals away from the LNA several weeks earlier.

However, no casualty figures for the BDB were released, the Libya Herald has reported.

Ahmed Al Mismari, the LNA spokesman, stated that the remnants of the BDB had fled to Misrata and Jufra, adding that a number of them had been captured as they tried to reach Jufra in the centre of the North African country.

Mismari added that General Khalifa Hafter, the head of the LNA which controls eastern Libya, had ordered his commanders to oust the BDB from Jufra and that LNA units were already concentrating near the town to seize it from the BDB.

Libyan social media reported that military aircraft could be heard over Jufra and Hun overnight Monday.

Since the overthrow and death of the late leader Muammar Gaddafi Libya remains deeply divided, between factions based in the east of the country and those based in the west, with both parts of the country supporting rival governments and parliaments.

Hafter is aligned with the eastern parliament and government and has been leading a two-year military campaign against armed groups in Benghazi and elsewhere in the east, many of them Islamist militants.

Following the oil terminal clashes, the British, American, French and Italian ambassadors to Libya have expressed strong concern over the fate of Libya’s oil facilities, calling for an end to hostilities in the Oil Crescent so as to protect Libya’s most critical oil assets.

“Oil infrastructure, production, export and revenues belong to the Libyan people and must remain under the exclusive control of the National Oil Corporation,” they said.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting between militia groups continued to wrack the capital Tripoli in western Libya.

The Tripoli clashes primarily involve Tripoli residents backing local militias against militias from Misrata, situated between Tripoli and Benghazi on the Mediterranean, and Amazigh or Berber forces.

Tripoli’s Hadba Hospital was hit by a missile on Monday night after clashes moved from the capital’s business district to an area around the Rixos Hotel complex.

A Libyan faction opposed to the UN-backed government, last year took over the Rixos complex, which had previously served as Tripoli’s parliamentary headquarters for the internationally recognised government, before calling for a new government.

A fire which set the hospital ablaze following the direct missile hit was brought under control by staff, but the exact extent of casualties was still unknown.

Earlier in the day, missiles thought to be RPGs, hit Waha Oil headquarters near the Marriott Hotel.

Following the fighting, streets and roads were blocked and a highway barricaded, while there has been no comment from Libya’s Presidency Council on the deteriorating security situation in the capital.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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