Wednesday, September 28, 2016

General Haftar beats back counter attack on Libyan oil ports and advances towards Sirte

Forces of the Petroleum Facilities Guard(PFG) headed by Ibrahim Jodhran, retreated from Es Sidra and Ras Lanuf just a few hours after having retaken them from General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) forces.

The counter-attack was repulsed with air attacks that appear to be by foreign airplanes. The PFG accused Egypt and the UAE of carrying out the bombings. They said four PFG fighers were killed. Defence Minister Al-Mihdi Al-Baraghati said: “There are strong indications that UAE and Egyptian warplanes have bombed PFG forces in Ras Lanuf and Sidra, we are now making sure of these indications”.
Mohamad Ibset, a spokesperson for Haftar's forces confirmed that there had been a counter-attack by the PFG at least on Ras Lanuf but did not mention El Sidra that the PFG also claim to have attacked. Spokesperson for the PFG, Ali al-Hassi claimed: “We attacked Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf, and Haftar’s forces are trying to hit us with their warplanes.” The clashes halted the first loading of oil cargo from Ras Lanuf since 2014. Haftar had agreed to turn over the ports to the Tripoli-based NOC as long as the NOC lifted the force majeure covering the ports so that oil could be exported.
There is a merger between the two rival national oil companies (NOC), the one based in Tripoli associated with the GNA and the other in Bayda associated with the HoR government. The merger was not completed as the HoR rejected it but negotiations between the heads of the two NOCs are to continue this week. Meanwhile Haftar appears to have accepted the Tripoli NOC for now. Unlike the PFG who accept the GNA and had a deal with them to export oil, Haftar does not recognize the GNA.
Haftar's forces were not content just to repel the counter attack. They have advanced to take control of towns further to the west that PFG forces had captured earlier from the Islamic State. A tweet claims: "#Libya army 101 Brigade takes control of Bin Jawad from Ibrahim Jadran's forces." However, Haftar's forces are advancing even further west towards Sirte with another tweet claiming: "Some PFG units to hand themselves and arms to LNA in Harawah, after local tribesmen guarenteed them a just trial." Another tweet says: "Reports that pro haftir forces have entered Ben Jawad and heading westward to harawa about 70km east of sirte" . A later tweet announces that Harawa was captured: "Harawa announced as under control of LNA , 40 PFG members taken in custody." A final tweet sounds an ominous note: "Col. Mo bennayel from east sirt We r ready to invade Misrata&liberate sirt from its militia any time " Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) forces are within striking distance of Sirte. The silence of the UN, its envoy Martin Kobler, and the GNA on this lightning advance of Hafter to take territory formerly under the control of forces loyal to GNA, is striking.