Libyan Unity Govt Forces Fail to Retake Contested Oil Ports

Tanker Flees Ras Lanuf Oil Port Amid Heavy Fighting

by Jason Ditz, September 18, 2016

An oil tanker at the Libyan oil port of Ras Lanuf has been forced to flee into the water to avoid being caught up in heavy fighting over the weekend, as a pair of ports were attacked by forces loyal to the Libyan unity government, aiming to reclaim the ports.

These oil ports had been under the control of the unity government’s Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) until last weekend, when Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s forces, loyal to the rival Tobruk Parliament, attacked and captured the important oil ports.

The PFG is meant to defend facilities from being overrun like this, but many of them had been repurposed by the unity government into a makeshift offensive force, which has been trying to capture the city of Sirte from ISIS. Short-handed, the guard was unable to fend off the well-armed Libyan National Army for long.

And while the international community is urging Hifter to cede the ports back, so far he’s refused to do so, and his forces managed to repel this weekend’s counter-offensive. The fighting further reduces the amount of oil Libya is able to export, adding to economic struggles that have been constant since the NATO-imposed regime change, as no faction seems to be able to control the entire oil apparatus for any measurable span of time.

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