By Mustafa Dala
The oil crescent region accounts for more than 60 percent of Libya’s total oil production.
Forces loyal to East Libya-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar have reclaimed control of Libya’s oil crescent after deadly clashes with a rival militia.
Haftar’s forces said they had captured the oil ports of Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf from forces aligned with militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran after a week-long fighting in the oil-rich area.
Jadhran, who is a resident of the oil crescent region, had controlled the oil ports since the fall of former strongman Muammar Gaddafi after a NATO-backed revolution in 2011 until 2016, when he lost the area to Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
The Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf energy terminals are two of the country’s largest, with a combined production capacity of some 600,000 barrels of oil per day.
Libya’s oil crescent region stretches from Ras Lanuf in the country’s east to the north-central city of Sirte and down to the southern Jufra district, in which the airbase is located.
The region accounts for more than 60 percent of Libya’s total oil production and has remained a point of contention among rival factions battling for control of the country.
For the most part, the region contains only small towns and industrial cities for oil workers and their families. It is thought to be inhabited by less than 1 percent of Libya’s total population.
According to Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), the recent bout of violence in the oil crescent has caused millions of dollars in losses.
The NOC said in a statement that two oil storage tanks had been set on fire since the fighting began, causing oil production cuts by 400,000 bpd.
Libya’s national oil production now stands at little over one million bpd.
Last year, the oil-rich area saw deadly fighting between Haftar’s forces and the rival Benghazi Defense Brigades, which briefly captured the area, before losing it again to the LNA.
The fact that the oil crescent region is a largely desert area with little population makes it extremely difficult to defend or control the region.
Tribes also play a major role in which party controls the oil-rich area.
In 2016, the Magariha tribe, a major tribe in the oil crescent, had helped Haftar’s forces to capture the area from Jadhran’s forces.
The recent violence came as the country prepares to hold fresh presidential and parliamentary election before the end of this year.
Libya has been dogged by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to Gaddafi’s death after more than four decades in power.
Since then, Libya’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power — one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli — and a host of heavily-armed militia groups.
Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this story in Ankara