Skip to main content

Libyan renegade's forces seize control of third oil port

UN-backed 'unity government' mobilises troops to retake facility from forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar and rebel Tobruk parliament
One of Libya's oil export terminals, largely out of action for two-and-a-half years (AFP)

The army of Libya’s eastern parliament, one of three rival powers in the country, seized a third oil port on Monday in a further blow to hopes of establishing political unity.

"Our armed forces were able to take control of Zuwaytina port and secure it completely," Mohammad al-Azumi, a spokesman for the eastern parliament said on Monday.

Forces loyal to the House of Representatives (HoR), which operates out of the eastern city of Tobruk, had on Sunday carried out a lightning advance that saw them seize control of two other oil export terminals.

The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which is based in the capital Tripoli, on Monday ordered its armed forces to head to the oil-producing region of Libya to try to wrest back control of the oil ports from the HoR’s forces.

“This step goes against progress towards a comprehensive unity agreement, and crushes the hopes of Libyans for stability and an end to the bloodshed,” a GNA spokesperson told a press conference in Tripoli on Monday.

However, the order comes as millions of people across the country and its various armed forces celebrate the festival of Eid, the biggest celebration in the Muslim calendar.

The GNA called on their eastern rivals to stop attacks on the oil terminals by what they called “foreign mercenaries and illegitimate forces”.

The HoR’s forces are led by commander-in-chief General Khalifa Haftar, a former renegade army man under Muammar Gaddafi who is now thought to have backing from the UAE and Egypt.

The oil ports seized by Haftar’s forces on Sunday and Monday had been under the control of Ibrahim Jadhran, head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), for two-and-a-half years.

Since the PFG took control of the ports they have been largely out of action in a dispute over pay.

However, Jadhran had recently pledged support to the GNA and agreed to restart oil exports.

In a joint statement published by the US State Department on Monday, the governments of the US, the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany condemned the attacks on the oil terminals and called for an immediate ceasefire.

"We also call on all forces to avoid any action that could damage Libya's energy infrastructure or further disrupt its exports. Libya's oil belongs to the Libyan people," the statement said.

"The Presidency Council (PC) is the sole steward of these resources. The PC and other Government of National Accord (GNA) institutions have an obligation to ensure oil revenues are used to provide essential services for the Libyan people." 

The western governments also called on all Libyan forces to unite against the Islamic State (IS) group, which continues to fight in the centre of the country despite losing ground in its stronghold city of Sirte.

"We urge peaceful cooperation among Libya's armed forces and immediate efforts to unify into one professional military force," the statement said.

"All Libyan forces have a responsibility to serve the entire nation, and to act on behalf of all Libyans. We welcome efforts by partners to encourage all forces to avoid further clashes."

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.