Sixteen people were injured as Libyan forces clashed with rebels occupying oil ports in the east of the country, state news agency Lana said.
Tribal mediators are trying to end the fighting that started yesterday evening in the city of Ajdabiya, Lana said, citing unidentified hospital officials on the number of casualties. The agency didn’t say whether the injured were civilians or fighters. Rebels attacked an army base near Ajdabiya to prevent a possible offensive against their positions, Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV channel said.
The government on March 12 gave the self-declared, Ajdabiya-based Executive Office for Barqa a two-week deadline to surrender four oil ports under its control. The warning followed an attempt by the rebels to export oil by loading a shipment on a tanker independently of the government.
The U.S. Navy seized the tanker off the Mediterranean island of Cyprus on March 17 and handed it over today to the Libyan navy with its 21-member crew and three eastern rebels that were on board, Lana said. The tanker, named Morning Glory, will empty its shipment in the storage tanks of the oil port of Zawiya, in western Libya, Al Arabiya channel said.
Sitting on Africa’s largest oil reserves, Libya has nine oil export terminals with the largest one, Es Sider, located in Cyrenaica. Its central government has been hobbled by a lack of oil revenue since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Crude production slumped to 350,000 barrels a day last month from an average of 1.59 million barrels in 2010. The deadlock in Libya, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has global implications, with Citigroup Inc. citing it as one of the reasons it raised its 2014 forecast for Brent crude to $103 a barrel from $93 last month.
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