By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli/Benghazi, 7 December 2016:
A military grouping said to be under the command of the Presidency Council’s acting defence minister Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi and Ibrahim Jadhran are reported to have taken the small towns of Nufliya and Ben Jawad east of Sirte from forces loyal to the Libyan National Army (LNA). The latter are said to have withdrawn during the attack which took place early this morning, at around 3am, with some 150 armed vehicles allegedly involved.
Members of the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) are also said to have taken part. However, reports that the oil terminals at Sidra and Ras Lanuf have also been taken are not true. Some reports speak of LNA aircraft subsequently attacking the forces, which apparently moved up from Jufra military base.
Nufliya, 140 kilometres east of Sirte was captured by the so-called Islamic State (IS) in February 2015 and Ben Jawad, another 20 kilometres further east, in January this year. IS forces pulled out in June and the towns were taken by LNA-linked forces.
At the beginning of last month the LNA claimed that Barghathi was mobilising forces at Jufra base between Waddan and Hun in order to retake the oilfields and terminals. It said that as a result it was reinforcing its presence at Ras Lanuf and Sidra a number of oilfields in Jufra district
At the time, however, Barghathi denied any such plans, saying that he had been in Jufra to assess whether the airbase could be used as the defence ministry’s headquarters. Presidency Council head Faiez Serraj similarly said on a visit to Jufra a fortnight later that the PC would not allow Jufra to become an area of conflict.
Officials from the east confirmed today’s attack but put a slant on it, with LNA spokesman Colonel Ahmed Mismari reported saying that the opposed forces were linked to Al-Qaeda. However, the commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guard in the area appointed by the LNA, Muftah Magarief, denied the reports of the attack.
He also said, though, that he had no news about the events.