THE LEVANT NEWS — Islamic State(ISIS) fighters clashed with security forces near Libya’s Es Sider oil export terminal on Monday killing two guards and setting an oil storage tank on fire, witnesses and a Petrol Facilities Guard source said.
The source told Reuters that the tank had been hit by a rocket during the fighting, causing a huge fire, and that two Islamic State suicide car bombers had attacked the area around the port after which its fighters had retreated.
According to Mohamed al-Manfi, an oil official based in eastern Libya, the tank was holding 420,000 barrels of oil.
Libya descended into chaos after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and rival governments and the militias that support them are fighting for control of the North African state and its energy reserves. Es Sider and nearby Ras Lanuf oil ports, between Sirte and Benghazi, have been shut for a year.
Islamic State has taken advantage the security vacuum to grab territory and are threatening to advance from Sirte, which it controls. So far the group has failed to take control of any Libyan oil installations but has done so in Syria.
The group said it had attacked Es Sider after taking the nearby town of Ben Jawad. However, there was no independent confirmation of its capture.
Es Sider is protected by Ibrahim al-Jathran’s Petrol Facilities Guard, which has backed the government based in the city of Bayda in the east, but is also fighting other forces supporting that government.
The United Nations has been trying to win support for a deal brokered in Morocco last month to create a national unity government for Libya.
Separately on Monday, a plane targeting militant groups in the eastern city of Benghazi was shot down, though the pilot ejected, senior army commander Fadel al-Hassi told Reuters.
Forces allied to the Bayda government have been battling insurgents based in Benghazi for months.