By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Tripoli, 11 March 2014:
Petroleum Facility Guards (PFG) supporting Ibrahim Jadhran were forced from Sirte’s Ghardabiya . . .[restrict]airbase and out of the town’s Bu Hadi district today after they were attacked by troops from Misrata.
Military officials told the Libya Herald that the Libya Shield Central Brigade captured the base from the Jadhran forces which had taken it over last week. No one on either side was reported injured in the fighting.
The brigade had been dispatched from Misrata by the Chief of Staff specifically to spearhead an attack on Jedhran forces and liberate the oil terminals and fields, in line with orders from Congress to end to Jadhran’s oil terminals blockade. The decision came in the wake of his moves to export oil from Sidra.
The takeover of the airbase by the PFG, arriving in 80 vehicles, was largely overshadowed by the oil tanker story.
There had been attempts to negotiate its departure by local elders but it had refused to leave. It was at this point that the Chief of Staff ordered the Misratans in. According to reports, the brigade, armed with tanks, technicals, canon and Katyusha rocket launchers, halted 50 kilometres west of Sirte for fresh negotiations. When these failed, a source in the brigade said, it attacked, capturing a number of PFG weapons in the process.
According to the source, part of the brigade is tonight stationed at Sirte’s eastern entry awaiting reinforcements and instructions from the Chief of Staff to move to Sidra and then on to the other terminals controlled by Jadhran. The source added that the brigade could free the oil ports itself but was acting on the instructions of the Chief of Staff not to move until the arrival of reinforcements.
The force so far is put at 3,000 strong. Latest reports say that three Tebu units, one with 80 vehicles, arrived this evening in eastern Sirte to join it. Other troops are expected overnight, bringing the entire force to 5,000 by tomorrow.
Security in Sirte for much of last year was in the hands of the Zawia Martyrs’ Brigade. A senior officer in the brigade, Colonel Jamal Al-Zahwi, is reported saying that when the Libya Shield force arrived in Sirte today it also attacked his headquarters. “We were surprised at this”, he said, insisting that his men were under the command of the Chief of Staff. However, realising their mistake, he said, the Misratan force apologised and left. [/restrict]