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Libya attack kills 22 troops loyal to HoR at oil ports

Haftar's forces and pro-HoR troops lose several positions in Benghazi to pro-GNC militias in the past 24 hours
A soldier loyal to Libya's Tobruk-based parliament stands on a tank as heavy black smoke rises from the Benghazi's port in the background on 23 December, 2014 (AFP)

Twenty-two troops loyal to Libya's Tobruk-based parliament were killed Thursday in an armed attack on a thermal power plant in the central city of Sirte, officials said.

In the surprise attack, militiamen reportedly belonging to the Fajr Libya, or Libya Dawn, used speedboats in a failed bid to seize some of Libya's main oil terminals.

The slain soldiers had been tasked with guarding the plant in western Sirte, a military official told The Anadolu Agency.

"These speedboats had fired several rockets at the terminals of Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra and one of them hit a tank south of Al-Sidra port which then caught fire," Ali al-Hassi, security spokesman for the region, told AFP.

Military and medical sources said 18 soldiers and one Fajr Libya fighter were killed in Sirte, and another four soldiers were slain in Al-Sidra.

For over two months, military forces loyal to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) have been engaged in confrontations with militias loyal to a rival Tripoli-based parliament, the General National Congress (GNC).

The sharp divisions have yielded two rival seats of government in the country, each of which has its own institutions.

Earlier this year, former army chief Khalifa Haftar declared war on militias based in eastern Libya.

A military official said Haftar's forces and pro-HoR troops had lost several positions in Benghazi to militias in the past 24 hours.

"Islamist gunmen seized large parts of Al-Lithi in south-central Benghazi, setting fire to 45 homes of people linked to Haftar and pro-government forces," the official said.

The latest clashes pushed oil prices higher in Asia on Friday, with US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February delivery rising 28 cents to $56.12, while Brent for February gained 13 cents to $60.37.

Since the clashes erupted on December 13, the country's oil production has dropped to nearly 350,000 barrels per day compared with 800,000 previously, according to industry experts.

Production in Libya, a member of the OPEC oil-producing cartel, has only just started to rise following a prolonged disruption due to civil unrest.

Analysts said short-covering was propping up prices, with dealers largely ignoring a surprisingly bearish US stockpiles report released on Wednesday. 

"Prices seem adamant on staying above support levels, and it seems they will hold for this festive season," said Daniel Ang, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore. 

"We continue to attribute this to the short-covering at the end of the year as oil bears close out positions to celebrate the New Year," he said.

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