* Libyan war planes strike Ras Lanuf, Es Sider
* Residents in region advised to restrict movement
By Ayman al-Warfalli
BENGHAZI, Libya, March 6 East Libyan forces
carried out fresh air strikes on Monday and said they were
mobilising ground forces as they attempt to win back two of
Libya's largest oil ports, military officials said.
Forces loyal to the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA)
lost control of the ports of Sider and Ras Lanuf on Friday to a
rival faction known as the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), and
have been unable to dislodge them with air strikes and ground
operations since then.
The escalation risks reversing a recent recovery in Libya's
oil production and reigniting conflict between military factions
based in eastern and western Libya that have been fighting on
and off for the past three years.
LNA forces are currently stationed at Al Uqaylah, about 70
km (45 miles) southeast of Ras Lanuf, military spokesman Akram
Buhaliqa said. LNA war planes conducted strikes near Ras Lanuf
and Es Sider early on Monday, he said.
The LNA took over the ports of Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, Brega
and Zueitina in September, allowing the National Oil Corporation
(NOC) to end a long blockade in the area and more than double
Al Uqaylah lies about 40km southwest of Brega, and about 120
km southwest of Zueitina, both still under LNA control.
LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari urged citizens in the region to
restrict their movements, and appealed to forces that captured
Sirte, about 180 km east of Es Sider, from Islamic State last
year, to stay within the coastal city to avoid being hit by air
"There is a very large air and ground mobilisiation of (LNA)
forces to drive back the terrorist gangs in the Oil Crescent,"
he said in a statement.
Since clashes began on Friday, 18 of the LNA's forces have
been killed and 15 wounded, a medical official in the nearby
town of Ajdabiya said.
Libya's oil production has reached around 700,000 barrels
per day (bpd) in recent weeks, more than double the OPEC
member's output last year, but still far under the 1.6 million
bpd it was producing before a 2011 uprising.
Es Sider and Ras Lanuf were badly damaged in previous rounds
of fighting and have been operating far below normal capacity.
The BDB are partly made up of fighters who fled Benghazi as
the LNA made advances there in a three-year campaign to oust
Islamists and other opponents from the city.
They say they are trying to return to Benghazi, 130km north
(Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Julia Glover)