Armed rebels attack Libyan oil terminal held by strongman Khalifa Haftar

Libya's two largest oil terminals have been attacked by a Benghazi rebel group. Production is expected to drop by 240,000 barrels per day and exports interrupted.

Rebels from the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) attacked Libya's largest oil terminals — the al-Sidra reserve and Ra's Lanuf refinery — which are under the control of strongman Khalifa Haftar and his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA). The attackers were quickly fought off, according to the LNA.

Read more: World Bank warns Libya faces economic collapse

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) said the facilities had been evacuated: "Due to armed conflict in the area."  It estimated production would fall by 240,000 barrels per day (bpd) and advised two tankers scheduled to arrive at the ports to remain at sea until the situation was under control.

Libya's rocky path to democracy

Ousted after decades

For more than 40 years, Moammar Gadhafi was the eccentric strongman in power in Libya. He was known for his odd behavior - and for his regime's ties to international terror groups. Libya was one of the countries swept up by the Arab Spring, and protests eventually turned into a civil war. Gadhafi fled but was eventually captured and killed In October, 2011.

Libya's rocky path to democracy

Chance for peace

After Gadhafi fell, the eyes of the world were on Libya in the hope that the country would have a smooth transition to democracy. By July 2012, democratic parliamentary elections had taken place, but it proved to be a challenge for the country's politicians to form a coalition and compromise on issues that would bring further stability.

Libya's rocky path to democracy

Militias gaining strength

Another problem facing Libya in the post-Gadhafi era was the rise of violent militias. While various armed groups did band together to topple the dictator, they did not have a common cause to rally around after his death. Instead, they fought each other. Terrorist groups were also on the rise in Libya, and staged a deadly attack on the US embassy in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.

Libya's rocky path to democracy

Deeply divided

Political divisions became deeper in the years following Gadhafi's ouster. The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) is the internationally-recognized authority in Libya, but several factions on the ground are claiming a hold on power. Jihadist groups including the so-called 'Islamic State' have gained a significant foothold in the country, making any progress precarious.

Libya's rocky path to democracy

Shifting sands

At present, the Tripoli-based GNA controls parts of western and central Libya while Haftar's Libyan National Army holds much of the northeast. However, areas of power are constantly shifting due to ongoing "Islamic State" violence and the country's many different smaller factions.

Libya's rocky path to democracy

Looking for help

In recent weeks, Libya has reached out to NATO for assistance in strengthening the country's security institutions in an effort to end the power struggle between competing governments and militias. Leaders of two of the biggest groups - the GNA and the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army LNA - called for an end to the political and economic crises in the country.

Struggle for control of the oil crescen

In September 2016, the LNA gained control of Libya's four largest oil terminals from the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) led by Ibrahim Jadhran, which held them for two years.

Jadhran opposes both the administration in the east and the Government of National Accord.

It is unclear whether Jadhran played a role in the attack, although he announced on social media: "The preparation of our ground forces and supporting forces in the oil region."

"Our objective is to overturn the injustice for our people over the past two years," Jadhran wrote.

On the offensive

Observers say an offensive in Derna, a port city in eastern Libya, which began in May has preoccupied the LNA and thus may have left it vulnerable at al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf.

The oil sector, Libya's economic backbone, has recovered of late but has been regularly affected by shutdowns and blockades.

Last year total output reached 1 million bpd, which is well shy of the 1.6 million bpd being produced before the 2011 uprising that toppled Gadhafi.

In May, exports of crude oil from Ras Lanuf were running at 110,000 bpd, while exports from Es Sider reached 300,000 bpd.

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DW News | 29.05.2018

Libya's rival factions reach tentative deal

js/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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