BENGHAZI, Libya, March 4 East Libyan forces
carried out air strikes around major oil ports overnight as they
sought to regain control of the area from a rival faction, a
military spokesman said on Saturday.
The eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) and allied
forces retreated on Friday from the oil ports of Es Sider and
Ras Lanuf, two of Libya's largest export terminals, as a faction
known as the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) attacked.
The assault raised the prospect of a new escalation of
violence around the ports, and put at risk a sharp boost to
Libya's oil production achieved after the LNA took over four
ports in September, ending a blockade at three of them.
Though Es Sider and Ras Lanuf have been reopened for
exports, they were badly damaged in past fighting and are
operating well below capacity. It was not clear to what extent
the BDB had gained control over the ports, or whether operations
at the terminals had been affected.
In response to the BDB advance, air strikes were carried out
in Ras Lanuf, Es Sidra, Ben Jawad and Harawa, LNA spokesman
Ahmed al-Mismari told Reuters.
A resident in Ras Lanuf said they heard war planes over the
town at dawn on Saturday, followed by explosions. Residents
posted pictures of fires and damage to buildings apparently
caused by the strikes.
Libya's oil production has recently been fluctuating around
700,000 barrels per day (bpd), more than double its output last
year but still well under the 1.6 million bpd the OPEC member
was producing before a 2011 uprising.
The Benghazi Defence Brigades are composed partly of
fighters who were ousted from Benghazi by the LNA, where LNA
commander Khalifa Haftar has been waging a military campaign for
nearly three years against Islamists and other opponents.
That battle is linked to a wider conflict between political
and armed factions based in eastern and western Libya.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Aidan Lewis;
Editing by Catherine Evans)