By Libya Herald staff.
Tunis, 14 December 2014:
Following the surprise attempt yesterday by combined Libya Dawn and Ansar Al-Sharia forces to seize . . .[restrict]Sidra oil terminal, the Tripoli-based “prime minister” Omar Al-Hassi went to Sirte later in the day to congratulate the combined forces on their action.
In the event it failed. According to a Misratan commander last night, his forces almost penetrated Sidra’s western gate but had to pull back because of heavy shelling by Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) and aerial bombardment by Libya National Army (LNA aircraft. He claimed they were two and a half kilometres from the gate.
“We will defend the oil ports, but will not take take other military action,” said Ali Al-Hassi ,the spokesman for Ibrahim Jadhran and his PFG forces,yesterday afternoon. “But the main operations, such as air strikes, will be taken by the LNA.”
Periodic clashes have continued today, according to LNA commander Bashir Budhfaira based in Adjabiya. “Hafter is fighting by air. We’re fighting on the ground and we have enough weapons,” he said in a similar statement. Four of his men had been wounded yesterday, he added.
Separate unconfirmed reports say that 38 members of the combined Libya Dawn force were killed.
The PFG defenders at Sidra have been joined by Tebu forces. They are reported to have sent a message to Jadhran that they were not there to support him but to defend Libyan national resources.
The involvement of Ansar alongside Libya Dawn forces is seen as a potential game changer because for the first time Libya Dawn has been seen to be allied to Ansar. There have been earlier claims of the collaboration between the two but nothing that could be proved. Until now, the political crisis has been seen as twofold: in the west, the government and LNA forces against Libya Dawn; in the east, the government and LNA/Hafter forces against Ansar Al-Sharia and other Islamist forces.
The UN has classified Ansar in Derna and Benghazi as a terrorist organisation but not yet the Ansar in Sirte which provided several of those involved in the clashes. However, some others also taking part were said to be members of Benghazi and Derna Ansar.
In response to the attempted attack, the HoR issued a statement saying that the fact that Libya Dawn had joined with Ansar in the Sidra attack proved that it, like Ansar, was a terrorist organisation, as it had previously declared.
The apparent joint move on Sidra could trigger international moves to now sanction Libya Dawn over its alliance with a declared terrorist organisation.