Islamist Benghazi Defence Brigades Seize Oil Crescent Ports

Mar 7, 2017 | Other Jihadi Actors

On 3 March, a loose alliance of Islamist-affiliated militias, including the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), former Ibrahim Jadhran loyalists and units from other allied factions (some reportedly affiliated with al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia) launched a multi-pronged attack on the Oil Crescent. They advanced from their bases in Jufra towards Nawfaliya then pushed east towards the oil ports of Sidra and Ras Lanuf. The Libyan National Army (LNA), which has controlled the Oil Crescent ports since September last year, attempted to push back the BDB with airstrikes.

However, the airstrikes failed to halt the BDB advance, leading the LNA to withdraw its forces from Sidra and Ras Lanuf.  The BDB pushed further east towards Brega. At the time of writing the frontline between the two forces is at al-Uqaylah, around 50km west of Marsa Brega oil port. Regular airstrikes by LNA forces on BDB positions near Sidra port took place on 3, 4, 5 and 6 March and at Ras Lanuf on 4 and 5 March.

On 4 March, the LNA spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari claimed that some members of the internationally recognized UN-brokered Presidential Council and High Council of State held secret meetings in Tripoli and Misrata with leaders of al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood to mastermind the BDB’s attack on the oil crescent region. There have also been a string of arrests of high profile figures within the LNA who are accused of conspiring with the BDB, including Ajdabiya’s Chief of Police and the mayor of Brega.

Some members of the Tobruq-based House of Representatives (HoR) issued a statement accusing Qatar and Turkey of sponsoring and supplying advanced military equipment to the BDB. The Turkish Embassy in Tripoli has denied any involvement in the offensive, while Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement condemning and rejecting the allegations about Qatar’s involvement in the internal conflicts between the Libyan parties.