© AFP/File | Libya’s two key oil export terminals are Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra, 650 kilometres (400 miles) east of the capital, which are together capable of handling 700,000 bpd
TRIPOLI (AFP) – A rival force seized the Libyan oil port of Zuwaytina from guards loyal to the UN-backed unity government early on Monday in a new blow to its authority, a force spokesman said.
“Our armed forces were able to take control of Zuwaytina port and secure it completely,” Mohammad al-Azumi said, after fighters who support a rival government based in east Libya seized two other oil ports on Sunday.
The LANA news agency loyal to the eastern administration reported a military source as saying: “The armed forces are now concentrated at the port and have secured it after expelling outlaw militia from it.”
Forces commanded by General Khalifa Haftar, who has refused the back the unity government and supports the authority in the east, on Sunday took the Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf ports and attacked Zuwaytina to their east.
All three Mediterranean ports are in Libya’s “oil crescent”, which is seen as a vital source of income for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which has struggled to assert its authority.
It is the first time that the rival administration’s forces and fighters loyal to the GNA clashed directly since the unity government started working in the capital in March.
The port of Brega, between Ras Lanuf and Zuwaytina, remains in the hands of the oil installation guards.
A spokesman for Haftar’s forces, Colonel Mohammad Mesmari, told the press late Sunday that efforts were underway to seize the port without fighting.
The GNA late Sunday called on all forces loyal to it to “protect and defend” the ports against what it called “flagrant aggression” against Libyan sovereignty.
Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival authorities and militia fighting for control in the oil-rich country.