On 3 March, a loose alliance of Islamist-affiliated militias, including the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), former Ibrahim Jadhran loyalists and units from other allied factions (some reportedly affiliated with al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia) launched a multi-pronged attack on the Oil Crescent. They advanced from their bases in Jufra towards Nawfaliya then pushed east towards the oil ports of Sidra and Ras Lanuf.
The Libyan National Army (LNA), which has controlled the Oil Crescent ports since September last year, attempted to push back the BDB with airstrikes. However, the airstrikes failed to halt the BDB advance, leading the LNA to withdraw its forces from Sidra and Ras Lanuf. The BDB pushed further east towards Brega. At the time of writing the frontline between the two forces is at al-Uqaylah, around 50km west of Marsa Brega oil port.
BDB commander Mustafa Sharksi said “our goal is to rescue Benghazi from Haftar and return displaced families to their homes.” The LNA siege against jihadist fighters from the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council, Ansar al-Sharia and Islamic State in the 12 Flats area of Ganfuda in Benghazi is ongoing, despite the LNA declaring Ganfuda liberated from jihadist control over a month ago. Sharksi said that the BDB would only push on to Benghazi once another force had been sent by the National Oil Corporation (NOC) to take over the oil ports it has seized.
Some members of the Tobruq-based House of Representatives (HoR) issued a statement accusing Qatar and Turkey of sponsoring and supplying advanced military equipment to the BDB. Both countries deny this.
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