“Libyan National Army” retake oil facilities, as national government urges UN to block “illegal” sales
The “Libyan National Army”, whose forces are loyal to General Khalifa Haftar and the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives, has recaptured the oil facilities in Ra’s Lanuf and Sidra. On the 21st of June, media affiliated with the LNA announced the success of the operation to seize back control of the two strategically significant oil terminals located in eastern Libya.
Contested ownership of ports
The latest round of violence erupted on June 14th when former Petroleum Facilities Guard Central Region commander, Ibrahim Jadran, led a militia in an attack on the port facilities, prompting the Libyan National Oil Company (NOC) to evacuate all its staff from both installations.
Jadran, who had previously controlled the ports in 2016, was not backed by the Petroleum Facilities Guard, as some reports have erroneously claimed, but instead was supported by a mixture of the local Magharba tribal elements – the tribe to which Jadran belongs – Tebu tribes and reportedly elements of the Benghazi Defence Brigades, who were forced out of the city they are named for after the LNA captured it last year. There were also reports of Chadian mercenaries among Jadran’s forces, though these remain unconfirmed.
When announcing the operation, Jadran claimed he was motivated to free the region from “terrorist” LNA forces.
With the fighting concluded, the LNA has said it intends not to return control of the ports to the NOC based in Tripoli, but instead to turn the ports over to representatives of the eastern NOC, under the leadership of Faraj Saeed al-Hassi.
The LNA claims, somewhat implausibly, that it has not been properly compensated for protecting the oil fields from the “extortion” of militia leaders like Jadran, and furthermore that profits from oil sales had been diverted to sponsoring anti-LNA militias, specifically the latest attack by Jadran.
In response, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord has called on the UN to “track and block” what is is calling the “illegal” sale of oil by the LNA. Referencing earlier Security Council resolutions, NOC’s Tripoli based chairman, Mustafa Sanalla, called on the LNA to restore exclusive oversight and control of those facilities to the legitimate NOC.
The US, France, UK and Italy have echoed the concerns of the Tripoli-based government, issuing a joint statement calling for oil facilities to be returned to the GNA’s control.
Refusal to do so on the part of the Libyan National Army could lead to renewed conflict between the eastern and western governments. In addition to that, any return to widespread violence would jeopardise the national elections due to take place in December this year.
Marc Simms is an occasional blogger for Proelium Law LLP. Marc holds a MLitt in Terrorism Studies and a Masters in International Relations, both from St Andrews. His particular interests are in emerging international security issues, unconventional warfare and terrorism.
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