By Libya Herald reporters.
Benghazi/Tunis, 14 March 2017:
Libyan National Army (LNA) forces have retaken the Ras Lanuf and Sidra export terminals this afternoon. They have also pushed the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) out of the Ben Jawad, 30 kilometres west of Sidra, an official with the LNA’s Sirte Operations Room told the Libya Herald. A separate LNA source also confirmed Ras Lanuf airport was back under its control. Other reports say that LNA forces had also taken Harawa, 70 kilometres east of Misratan-held Sirte, and were heading south to Jufra airbase.
It is held by Misratan forces but has also been the operational base for the BDB. Its capture would open up western Libya to the LNA.
During the day LNA ground forces, aided by air strikes, were reported engaged in fierce fighting in Ras Lanuf’s residential area where the BDB were said to be trapped. At least two LNA fighters, however, were killed this morning.
The LNA’s media office meanwhile claimed an unspecified number of Chadian mercenaries were arrested in the Ras Lanuf area, as were several BDB members. It is also claimed that an LNA airstrike hit a farm house in nearby Nufliya belonging to BDB commander Ibrahim Al-Baheji while a meeting was taking place there between Jadhran militia leader Ayad Al-Baheji and Mohammed Bunawara, who is allegedly responsible for Chadian and Sudanese forces fighting with the militants.
It is not known if anyone was killed.
Later in the day, locals were seen in Ras Lanuf celebrating the return of the LNA.
For his part, Idris Bukhamada, who heads the Presidency Council’s Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) and who was tasked by it with taking over the two terminals after they were captured by the BDB ten days ago, claimed seven of his men were killed yesterday and parts of Ras Lanuf’s oil terminal destroyed as a result of the air strikes.
The change in the LNA’s fortunes is attributed to a fresh deal negotiated with the head of the local Magharba tribe, Salah Al-Ataiwish, who returned from the UAE three days ago. He had gone there for treatment after being wounded in an assassination attempt last November in Benghazi.
He who was behind the deal last September which saw many members of the tribe who were working at the terminals effectively switching sides, enabling the LNA to take over. Not all switched: the tribe also includes the Jadhran family.
When the BDB took over the terminals, it was claimed that a number of Magharba members had again changed sides, returning the Jadhran fold.