By Taher Zaroog and Jamal Adel.
Misrata/Tripoli, 17 March 2014:
The Misrata-based Central Libya Shield Brigade . . .[restrict] has withdrawn from Sirte Airbase and from the Zueitina, Al-Fida and Al-Ghani oilfields south east of Sirte in the area around Zillah.
It took control of the airbase last Tuesday and then moved into the oilfields later in the week.
The withdrawal comes amid reports of a deal being brokered by Magharba tribe and Cyrenaican elders under which Ibrahim Jadhran would hand over the oil terminals to intermediaries and leave the country while the Misratans would return home.
In a statement today, the spokesperson of the Central Libya Shield, Ala Al-Huwaik, said that yesterday’s withdrawal had been ordered by the Chief of Staff following mediation by local elders. These, he said, were working to resolve the crisis over the blockade of the oil terminals by members of the Petroleum Facilities Guards under the control of Jadhran following the decision by the President of the General National Congress, Nuri Abu Sahmain, to suspend for two weeks his decision to send in forces to end the seven-month stalemate.
The three oilfields were now under the control of Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) led by Brigadier Idris Bukhamada, Huwaik told the Libya Herald.
The withdrawal had taken place without any fighting, he added.
On Sunday, Huwaik said that the Misratan-led forces had earlier taken over control of the three fields in collaboration with Idris Bukhamada’s PFG forces as well as with local military units and former thuwar, and was preparing to move to secure the oil fields in the Maradah area further to the east.
“We didn’t face any confrontation”, Huwaik said at the time, “because locals in Zellah, with the army units there, were massively cooperative”.
According to officials in Misrata last night, a deal had been brokered under which Misratan and Benghazi forces would pull out of Sirte and the oilfields, although units from while Tarhouna, Zawia, Beida and Marj would stay. In return, Jadhran would leave for Dubai, handing over the oil terminals to the PFG under the control of Idris Bukhamada.
He, like Jadhran, is from Ajdabiya and a member of the Maghraba tribe, but is not a Cyrenaica federalist and is instead loyal to the central authorities.
Also as part of the agreement, those responsible for the deaths of five members of the Zawia Martyrs Brigade killed in Sirte last Wednesday, would be handed over to the public prosecutor.
Last week, the Magharba elders called for the advance against the oil terminals ordered by the Chief of Staff, over which Abu Sahmain had imposed a two-week stay of execution, to be cancelled. They promised in return they would ensure a solution to the oil terminals crisis.
The deal was brokered ahead of the seizure of the tanker Morning Glory and the failure of Jadhran’s hopes of selling oil on the international market.
However, whether the deal becomes reality has yet to be seen. A similar agreement brokered by the Magharba last December came to nothing. [/restrict]