Sunday, May 22, 2016

Haftar taking control of oil fields near Al-Jufra in Libya

While Misrata militia are gaining some ground against the Islamic State west of their stronghold Sirte, Haftar appears to be busy seizing oil fields and attacking the Shura Council of Derna fighters who were instrumental in driving the IS from the city.

Civilian and military sources from Al-Jufra city claim that militias loyal to Haftar, commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army(LNA) associated with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), have gained control of 14 oil fields in the Marada and Zilla basins. Abdelrahman Basheer, commander of the Tagreft brigade, told Al-Nabaa TV that the Haftar-allied militias are positioning their forces in the fields. The militia include fighters from Sudan and Gadaffi loyalists, the commander claims. The commander said: “Most of the oil fields have been controlled by Haftar’s militias; they are now void of employees and workers.” He doubted that the militia would enter Al-Jufra itself which contains Libya Shield forces which last week clashed with the Haftar militia near Zilla. The Shield militia are now part of the forces under command of the Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos military operation which is now moving east through IS territory towards the IS stronghold of Sirte. The article in the Libya Observer concludes by noting reports on social media:
 Earlier this week, some activists on social media spread leaked emails for Haftar’s fighters confirming that his militias that headed west were not intending to attack Sirte but to control Al-Jufra military base and use it as a start point for attacks on Misrata and other cities farther ahead if needed, according to the leaks.
While the Misrata militia are gaining ground against the Islamic State, it is at considerable cost. IS is using deadly suicide attacks. According to the Libyan Gazette the operations rooms set up by the GNA the death toll Wednesday for their troops was 32 dead and 50 wounded. The first phase of the operation against Sirte is said to be at an end: The spokesman of the operations chamber of Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure) Operation, colonel Mohammed Al-Ghasri, said Wednesday that the first stage of the operation has come to an end after liberating Abugrein, Zamzam, Al-Gaddahiya, Abu Najeim, and Al-Wishka by the forces appointed by the Presidential Council of the UN-proposed government.Haftar must watch with interest as he considers not only the IS but also the Misrata militia as his enemies and terrorists. Meanwhile he is busy with his Operation Volcano meant to lberate Derna from its Shura Council who were instrumental in driving the Islamic State from the city. They too are Islamists and his enemy.
It is not yet clear what exactly is happening in the oil ports controlled by the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) that are or were headed by Ibrahim Jodhran, an opponent of Haftar and supporter of the GNA. The Libya Herald has an article suggesting that a deal was made at Ras Lanuf with the guards to support the LNA and allow it to pass through Ras Lanuf on its way to attack the eastern edge of IS territory only a few miles away. No attack has happened as yet. Another article in the Libya Observer has the PFG saying that Haftar was plotting to take over the oil fields:In a statement, signed also by Ajdabia, Brega and Sidra Municipal Councils, the PFG said Khalifa Haftar has deployed former Gaddafi brigades and Chadian and Sudanese rebel groups to control oil ports and fields on the pretext of liberating Sirte. "Haftar is creating tension in the oil region to obstruct the political agreement and government of accord,"What is clear is that Haftar has still to launch any attack on the eastern borders of Islamic State territories. Perhaps if the IS suffers serious defeats and is in danger of losing Sirte, Haftar may decide that he needs to attack and gain territory for the HoR so that it does not fall into the hands of the rival GNA.


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