The army on Sunday thwarted an attempt by forces loyal to renegade oil guard commander Ibrahim Jadhran to retake control of the Oil Crescent area, which they had lost a week earlier.
“Army forces have fully regained control of Sidra and Ras Lanuf” declared the army general command Sunday evening, adding that the “criminal gangs” had been pushed back beyond Bin Jawad, just 30km west of Sidra.
Former Petroleum Facilities Guard members under Jadhran’s leadership attacked the ports on Sunday morning, triggering an army counter offensive and clashes.
A week earlier, the army had seized the four oil ports, encountering little resistance. The army then appealed to Jadhran’s supporters to surrender and join the PFG approved by the eastern authorities.
But the hard core of Jadhran group staged a tactical withdrawal to strike back a week later. They launched an offensive with 100 armored vehicles, army sources said.
Nevertheless it appears that they are severely weakened after the latest round of combat.
“Our armed forces hit with an iron fist and showed the world that the Libyan army is strong and able to fight terrorism”, said Mohamed al-Qabaili, a spokesman of the official PFG. He confirmed that the Libyan airforce was involved in the operation, but denied the involvement of Egyptian and UAE aircraft.
Tens of Jadhran’s men were killed or injured in the fighting on Sunday, according to Akram Buhliga, commander of the army’s Ajdabiya Operations Room. Other sources put the death toll in Jadhran’s ranks at five, with nine men captured, although Qabaili said exact numbers could not be disclosed.
Around 100 of Jadhran’s men turned themselves in and were pardoned by the authorities, according to Mohamed al-Gabsi, commander of army brigade 302 in Ajdabiya.
Army spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said Ibrahim Jadhran himself was shot in the shoulder and is believed to be receiving treatment in his hiding place in Harawa, west of BinJawad.
Jadhran’s personal vehicle had also been confiscated, Mismari said, adding that documents were found inside.
The army says it has placed Jadhran’s group – and other groups they claim are affiliated – under siege.
“The terrorist remnants are trapped in an area not exceeding 50 km”, PFG spokesman Qabaili told Libya Channel.
“Jadhran’s attack was a last desperate attempt”, political analyst Ezeddin Agil told Libya Channel. He nevertheless suggested creating a buffer zone to protect oil installations from future attacks.
The renewed fighting came as a blow to the National Oil Corporation, which had only just lifted force majeure and resumed operations in the Oil Crescent.
A crude reservoir at Sidra terminal was hit on Sunday, but firefighters had managed to extinguish the flames by the evening.
“We dealt with the fire at reservoir 12, which is a very small, and it was put out in record time.”, Abdeldaim al-Haj, a representative of the workers union said.
A vessel docked at Ras Lanuf was forced to interrupt the lifting process and leave the port.
But the NOC resumed port operations on Monday, and a first oil vessel left Brega terminal for Italy with 600,000 barrels of crude.