By Libya Herald reporter.
Tripoli, 7 December 2016:
The Libyan National Army (LNA) says it has recaptured the towns of Ben Jawad and Nufliya from the military force that took them early this morning. It says that four of it soliders were killed and eight wounded in the counter-offensive and that eight of the attackers were also died.
For its part, the Presidency Council and its defence ministry have denied any involvement in today’s moves aimed at seizing the Sirte basin oilfields and terminals from the LNA.
Meanwhile, there has been wave of condemnations of the events from both sides of the Libyan divide and the National Oil Corporation (NOC) has ordered all non-essential staff to leave the Sidra oil terminal.
“Our first concern is for the safety of our personnel,” said NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla who indicated that although there has been no declaration of force majeure in relation to Sidra, it would happen if there were any deterioration in the situation.
An engineer at the terminal was reported saying that the attackers had fired rockets towards the terminal which is 30 kilomtres from Ben Jawad.
The initial capture of the two towns was at first said to have been carried out by forces under the control of the Presidency Council’s defence minister Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi and Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) chief Ibrahim Jadhran. The LNA now says that the attackers were members of the militant Benghazi Defence Brigades, the grouping of Benghazi militias that were part of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shoura Council but forced out of the city earlier this year by the LNA and fled to Tripoli.
According to Colonel Muftah Al-Magarief, who was appointed by the LNA as head of the PFG in place of Jadhran, the recapture of the two towns followed air strikes on the BDB. In the counter-attack, he added, equipment had been captured as well as a number of the BDB’s commanders. This included, allegedly, a member of the Temporary Security Committee (TSC) set up by the Presidency Council to provide it with an independent military force.
The PC has denied that it was “in any way involved” in the attacks, although it also said that there has been a decision to set up an operations room to retake the oil crescent. The PC’s defence ministry similarly denied issuing any orders to retake the towns. It had, it added, launched an investigation into who had been involved in the decision to attack. It accused the BRB of undermining the legitimacy of the PC.
The BRB is part of the alliance of hardliners supported by the grand mufti Sadeq Al-Ghariani which is firmly opposed to the PC and the Libyan Political Agreement.
Condenation of the attacks came from House of Representatives President Ageela Saleh as well as Misratan politician Belgassem Igzeit, who is a member of the State Council and who said that if it were shown that Barghathi had been involved, he would have to resign.
UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler has called for calm in the oil crescent area.