Libya Islamists press advance on key oil region

Libya Dawn, an anti-government coalition of Islamist militias, said its men were advancing on Al-Sidra oil terminal in al-Hilal region

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Islamist fighters clashed with pro-government forces for the second consecutive day Sunday as they pressed an advance on a key oil region in eastern Libya, sources on both sides reported, according to Agence-France Presse.

Libya Dawn (or Fajr Libya), an anti-government coalition of Islamist militias, said its men were advancing on al-Sidra oil terminal in al-Hilal region, which is also home to the Ras Lanuf and Brega terminals.

Islamist commander Tareq Shanina was quoted by a news agency linked to the group saying that his men "advanced toward Al-Sidra" and were coming under air attack from pro-government forces.

Shanina said Libya Dawn fired anti-aircraft guns in response.

An official with a unit guarding oil installations said clashes were under way around Al-Sidra, Libya’s largest oil terminal.

Ras Jedir

In a separate development, at least 17 Libya Dawn militiamen were killed in an air strike by pro-government forces near the Ras Jedir border crossing with Tunisia, a military source said.

The military source, who declined to be named, said Sunday’s air raid near Ras Jedir was carried out by forces loyal to anti-Islamist ex-general Khalifa Haftar who is fighting to crush Islamists who control swathes of Libya.

Continuing clashes

On Saturday, Fajr Libya launched a three-pronged attack to seize control of al-Hilal but pro-government forces backed by air force jets and helicopters repelled the assault.

The air raids were followed by clashes on the ground that tapered off in the evening only to resume again Sunday.

More than three years after Dictator Muammar Qaddafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed revolt, Libya is still awash with weapons and powerful militias, and has rival parliaments as well as governments.

Islamists have seized Tripoli and second city Benghazi in the east, and forces loyal to international recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani are fighting to regain control of them.