Eastern Libyan forces said on Wednesday they had driven armed groups from Libya’s 70,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) El Feel Oil Field, where production was halted after a rival group took control of it.
The National Oil Corporation said earlier on Wednesday that air strikes had halted production at El Feel as eastern-based forces retaliated after forces aligned to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli took control of the field.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) drove out the rival group and was securing the field, its spokesman, Ahmed Mismari, said on his Facebook page.
The fighting reignited a conflict for control of large oilfields in southwestern Libya between competing military alliances that are also battling on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli.
“There have been air strikes at the gates of the El Feel oilfield and inside a housing compound at the field used by NOC personnel,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement.
“Production will remain shuttered until military activity ceases and all military personnel withdraw from NOC’s area of operations.”
The LNA, led by Khalifa Haftar, said its jets had launched air strikes “at the perimeter of El Feel oilfield targeting the positions of armed groups that attacked the field”.
Some members of the forces aligned with the Tripoli-based government posted videos or photos on social media appearing to show them at the field.
Libya has been divided since 2014 into rival military and political camps based in Tripoli and the east. Haftar controls most of Libya’s oil fields and facilities but oil revenues are controlled by the central bank in Tripoli.
The country’s oil production has been repeatedly disrupted in recent years by conflict and blockades but is currently relatively stable at about 1.25 million bpd.
El Feel is operated by Mellitah Oil and Gas, a joint venture between the NOC and Italy’s Eni. An engineer at the field said production was 70,000 bpd before the stoppage.
Haftar’s forces have controlled El Feel and the nearby El Sharara oilfield, Libya’s largest, since February, when they swept through the south before launching an offensive on Tripoli in April.
The campaign for Tripoli quickly stalled, though fighting between rival forces continues on the outskirts of the capital.