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In Bloody Shootout, Libyan Oil Guards Retake Strategic Towns from ISIS

Oil Guards

An oil guard militia loyal to Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) says it has captured the strategic towns of Ben Jawad and Nawfiliyah from Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

The two towns were reportedly captured by the 27,000-strong Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) forces, which are loyal to the GNA, on Sunday and Monday, Reuters reported.

Since January, ISIS has held Bin Jawad—a strategic crossing point to the oil ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, both closed due earlier militant attacks. These ports are situated between ISIS-controlled Sirte and Benghazi in the east, which is controlled by parallel government forces opposed to the membership of Islamic forces under the umbrella of the GNA.

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Five PFG forces have reportedly been killed in fighting that was still raging late on Monday.

Elsewhere in Libya, militiamen from the western city of Misrata said they were pushing toward Sirte. These forces are also loyal to the GNA.

According to U.S. intelligence figures, there are an estimated 6,000 ISIS fighters now in Libya.

Militarily, ISIS does not have the capabilities in Libya to launch all-out offensives on these oil fields to gain control. Instead, ISIS used sporadic attacks designed to rattle nerves and force oil-field evacuations or worker strikes out of fear. By April at least four oil fields in eastern Libya were evacuated because of fears of further ISIS attacks. The political upheaval has created opportunities for further attacks.

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Reportedly, Libya has lost over US$68 billion in potential oil revenues since 2013. It has seen 75 separate oil field shutdowns and port disruptions.

Last week, Libya ramped up production to 300,000 barrels per day after re-launching exports from the eastern port of Hariga, which is controlled by the parallel eastern government based in Tobruk and also engaged in fighting against ISIS.

By James Burgess of Oilprice.com

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