Oil Installations Guard Opens the Eastern Front Against Da’esh

Sirte: No Sign of Da’esh in the City Raises Questions About Reports Coming from Unity Government Militias

British warplanes conducted aerial strikes over Ben Jawad and al Jufra throughout the morning, allegedly targeting da’esh.

On the ground, oil installation guards in Ben Jawad engaged in clashes with da’esh. Spokesman, Ali Hassi, said the guards coordinated their efforts with the GoA command center and that this was the first stage in liberating the city of Sirte.

Ali Hassi on Libya 24
“We will continue operations until the liberation of Sirte”.

Colonel Bashir Bozverh stated that his forces now controlled Ben Jawad, but that five had died and 18 were wounded as a result of today ‘s battles.

Jamahiriya News Agency

Libyan security forces pushing Islamic State back from vicinity of oil terminals

Libyan security forces captured a second town from in as many days from Islamic State, a spokesman said, pushing the militant group back toward its stronghold of Sirte and away from positions near major oil terminals.

The Petroleum Facilities Guard took control of Nawfiliyah, about 130 km (80 miles) from Sirte, though fighting outside the town raged on and some PFG members had been wounded, spokesman Ali al-Hassi said. The PFG captured the nearby town of Ben Jawad on Monday after clashes that killed five of its combatants.

PFG forces say they are fighting on behalf of a U.N.-backed unity government that arrived in Tripoli in March to try to end factional chaos prevailing since Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, with Islamist militants taking root in the security vacuum.

PFG forces have advanced since separate brigades aligned with the unity government pushed Islamic State back to the outskirts of Sirte from the west.

Western states are counting on the unity government to bring together Libya’s armed factions and tackle Islamic State, which has exploited anarchy in the oil-producing North African state to establish its strongest base outside Syria and Iraq.

But the new government faces a tough task integrating Libya’s complex web of armed groups, and has failed to win support from key political and military factions in the east.

On Tuesday it announced an operations room to run the campaign against Islamic State on the coastal stretch between the eastern town of Ajdabiya and Sirte, which includes the PFG-controlled oil terminals of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf. It did not say which forces would be under its command.

Islamic State extended its presence along some 250 km (155 miles) of Mediterranean coast on either side of Sirte, and in January attacked Es Sider and Ras Lanuf.

Islamic State has lost no significant population centers in its coastal zone over the last week but if government-backed brigades hold their ground, the jihadists’ buffer zone around Sirte would have shrunk significantly.

The PFG is a thousands-strong paramilitary force set up to protect Libya’s oil installations.

Libyan oil guard says captures coastal town from Islamic State after clashes

A force that controls oil terminals in eastern Libya said it had captured the town of Ben Jawad from Islamic State, pushing the militant group back along a coastal strip they control east of their stronghold of Sirte.

Spokesman Ali al-Hassi said five Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) fighters had been killed and 18 wounded in fierce clashes in the coastal town, and that fighting was continuing in the nearby town of Nawfiliyah.

A Ben Jawad resident told Reuters that PFG forces had entered the town and were combing the area to secure it. If the PFG can hold Ben Jawad it could prove significant, signaling the start of a new front in the campaign against Islamic State.

The PFG has declared its support for Libya’s U.N.-backed unity government. Other brigades that back the government advanced last week to the outskirts of Sirte from the west.

“We launched today’s attack to purge and liberate the central region from Daesh (Islamic State), and secure this area under the umbrella of the ministry of defense and the Presidential Council, the Supreme Commander of the Libyan army,” Hassi said.

In January IS announced it had established full control over Ben Jawad, about 150 km east of Sirte. It also attacked the oil terminals of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, a little further east, clashing with the PFG and causing extensive damage.

The PFG is a paramilitary force of several thousand men that was set up to protect oil installations in eastern Libya but has acted independently and been split by internal divisions.

The main PFG commander, Ibrahim Jathran, was previously aligned with eastern factions, before switching his allegiance. Jathran has said he is willing to work with the unity government and reopen oil terminals that the PFG has long blockaded.