East Libyan forces have regained control of two major oil ports of Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra from a rival faction that seized them earlier this month.
Military spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) was pursuing fighters from the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) toward the town of Ben Jawad, located about 30 kilometer west of al-Sidra.
Akram Buhaliqa, an LNA commander in the nearby city of Ajdabiya, also said BDB fighters were retreating toward Ben Jawad. The claims could not be independently verified.
Earlier, troops commanded by Libyan General Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to seize the oil terminals.
Khalifa al-Abidi, a spokesman, said orders had been issued for the assault early Tuesday.
“Ground, sea and air forces launched joint attacks to liberate Ras Lanuf from terrorist groups,” media outlets quoted the spokesman as saying. The offensive is also targeting the nearby al-Sidra oil terminal, he added.
The two main groups fighting for control of Libya’s oil terminals are the BDB and the LNA, led by Haftar.
Both sites were seized by the rival militia earlier this month.
In September last year, pro-Haftar forces captured Ras Lanuf, al-Sidra and two other eastern oil ports in a blow to the UN-supported authority of the Government of National Accord (GNA). Haftar has refused to cede power to the GNA since its installation last year in the capital, Tripoli.
In a separate development on Tuesday, authorities said fresh fighting erupted between rival armed groups in Tripoli. Witnesses said explosions and gunfire could be heard in two neighborhoods west of the city center.
The fighting has left many trapped in their homes as several key thoroughfares were blocked across the city.
It was not immediately clear who was involved in the latest fierce clashes.
UN reports executions, torture in eastern Libya
The United Nations said on Tuesday that rivals battling in Libya’s eastern oil-rich region had reportedly conducted summary executions, torture and other violations.
The UN human rights office said in a statement that there were “serious allegations” that the Benghazi group executed two LNA fighters in the Ras Lanouf medical center on March 3.
The world body has also received reports of LNA fighters raiding the homes of presumed supporters of the rival group in the region, arresting and detaining children and taking hostages.
“We have received reports that those detained have been subjected to torture,” the statement said.
Haftar was an ally of Libya’s former long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi but joined the Libyan revolution against Gaddafi in 2011.
Libya has been rocked by violence since a NATO military intervention that followed the 2011 uprising and led to the overthrow and death of Gaddafi. Rival governments were set up in Tripoli and eastern Libya in 2014.
General Haftar is linked to the government based in the eastern port city of Tobruk.
His forces have also been fighting militias loyal to the Tripoli government since 2014.
By Africafrique and agencies
This file photo taken on January 8, 2016 shows smoke billowing from a petroleum storage tank after a fire was extinguished at al-Sidra oil terminal, near Ras Lanuf in eastern Libya. (Photo by AFP)