Thursday, October 8, 2015

Islamic State forces reportedly attack checkpoint at eastern oil terminal at Sidra

Islamic State forces launched an attack at a checkpoint at the Sidra oil terminal recently. Ali Hassi, the spokesperson for the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), reported one guard was killed in the attack and two others wounded. It is not absolutely certain that the Islamic State launched the attack as it has not claimed credit for it, and the commander of the PFG group has been at  odds with Khalifa Haftar the head of the HoR armed forces as of late.
A separate report claimed two guards were killed. It was not known where the attackers came from. However IS controls Nufaliya, just 50 kilometres west. The main base of IS in Libya now is in the old home town of Gadaffi, Sirte, about 190 kilometres west of Sidra. The head commander of the PFG, Ibrahim Jadhran, is said to have visited Sidra shortly after the attack. The terminal has been closed since last December after it had been attacked by Libya Dawn forces linked with the Tripoli-based General National Congress government. However, there was an agreement that Libya Dawn withdraw apparently because the Tripoli government needed the forces to help control the spread of the Islamic State out of Sirte.
The Reuters report on the attack claims the Islamic State has gained ground in Libya. This is debatable. In fact the Islamic State has lost control of its first and major base in the city of Derna that is now controlled by a Shura council that drove the Islamic State, or Daesh in Arabic, out of the city and into the mountains nearby. However, along with other sources, Reuters likes to emphasize attacks by the Islamic state and this is picked up and used by the international community as an argument for a Libyan unity government to be formed as quickly as possible. This is a constant theme at the UN meeting at which dozens of countries appear as cheerleaders for the Libyan dialogue and Libya Political Agreement.
The Reuters account adds that the militants later tried to attack the same checkpoint with a car bomb and four attackers were killed. The Islamic State also earlier attacked oil fields in the Al-Ghani oilfield in an area controlled by the GNC government and kidnapped a number of workers. Reuters considers the attack on Sidra to be a major escalation of their campaign.The pro-GNC Libya Observer also reports on the attack claiming that three guards were killed and one attacker in a drive-by attack using machine guns.
Meanwhile, it appears there are divisions within the HoR-controlled area of eastern Libya. As mentioned, the Islamic State has lost control of Derna. However, commander of the HoR armed forces, Khalifa Haftar, dislikes the Islamists who have taken over even as much as the Islamic State. The new group is supported by the GNC government. A group of nearby Al-Bayda tribal elders visited Derna after Haftar accused commander Colonel Abu Ghafayar of supporting terrorism. A delegation member said: "We found out that the charges against Col. Abu Ghafayar were all false and falsification of facts intended to ignite sedition among the tribes." The group said they would send a convoy of food, supplies, and ammunition to help out Ghafayar in Derna after Haftar stopped supplies to him.
In another sign of division, security chiefs in east Libya said they will not obey orders of the interim government of Abdullah Al-Thanni or comply with its decisions. The chiefs said the HoR interior ministry was corrupt and had disrupted security services. The chiefs said they would only obey Colonel Moamin Bozohra who is chief of the Al-Bayda security department and was appointed by General Khalifa Haftar. Haftar has already prevented prime minister Al-Thanni from flying out of Libya twice and once tried to arrest him. Haftar has rejected the Libya Political Agreement that is being promoted at the UN. There seems little chance that any agreement could ever pass the HoR parliament when Haftar opposes it. There are many other groups within the HoR area that oppose the agreement including the 19 members of the HoR women's bloc.


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