Libyan army in heavy fighting with oil port rebels

March 22, 2014 11:27


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BENGHAZI, Libya - Libyan troops fought with rebels occupying oil ports on Saturday after fighters attacked an army base where military reinforcements were preparing for an offensive to break the blockade, local residents said.

Anti-aircraft gunfire and explosions were heard late at night and again after dawn on Saturday in Ajdabiya, the hometown of rebel leader Ibrahim Jathran, near the main eastern city of Benghazi.The central government in Tripoli gave Jathran a two-week deadline on March 12 to end a blockade of three oil ports or face a military assault.

Last Sunday, US forces stormed a tanker that had made it as far as the eastern Mediterranean after loading crude at one of three ports Jahtran's men have occupied.

On Saturday morning, troops loyal to Jathran attacked an army camp which had been reinforced after the government issued its threat of a military offensive, residents said.

"You can hear heavy shooting at several places in Ajdabiya," said a resident. Casualties were reported on social media but Reuters was unable to get immediate confirmation from hospitals.

Jathran's movement could not be reached and there was no government comment.

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