Libya Herald reporters.
Benghazi, 4 January 2016:
At least two members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard were killed this morning during a two-pronged attack . . .[restrict]by IS on the Sidra and Ras Lanouf oil export terminals.
It appears that IS launched two suicide car bombers at the security gate guarding Sidra in a diversionary strike while another force of up to a dozen vehicles looped south and attacked Ras Lanouf, 32 kilometres further east. In this assault one of the storage tanks in the tank farm was set ablaze.
Ras Lanouf largely escaped damage during Libya Dawn’s Operation Sunrise attack last year, which severely damaged the Sidra tank farm.
One Libyan National Army commander, Bashir Boudhfira, told Reuters that the main attack had pushed toward Ras Lanouf terminal, skirting south of Sidra.
There were unconfirmed reports that aircraft from Libya Dawn launched ground attacks on the IS forces.
IS is meanwhile claiming that it has taken over the town of Ben Jawad, the axis of six months bitter fighting during the Revolution, when it changed hands several times. In better days the town had a population approaching 9,000 but many inhabitants fled during the Libya Dawn assault last year and have not since returned.
It is likely that the occupation of Ben Jawad by IS on the coastal road is of more importance to the terrorists than the attack on the two export terminals which have anyway been out of operation for months. Indeed thanks to IS raids on facilities in the Waha and Mabrouk oil fields which now stand damaged, deserted or both, there could be little flow of crude to the terminals. The only export point for eastern oil remains Tobruk’s Hariga terminal.
IS claimed in its glossy English-language Dabiq site that Libya’s oil resources were now a prime takeover target. However, one London oil analyst today told the Libya Herald: “The idea that IS could export Libyan oil is nonsensical. Even the PFG’s Ibrahim Jadhran was unable to sell oil from the terminals that he controlled. It is widely expected that as and when the new Government of National Accord asks for international intervention against IS, one component, apart from air strikes, will be a maritime lockdown.
“It seems that IS is thinking more in terms of bargaining counters for when the airstrikes start. If they can grab Sidra and post a load of their people there, the only way that they could be driven out would be by destroying the facilities”. [/restrict]