Escalation? ISIS clashes with Libya’s oil-guard commandos near Brega

Escalation? ISIS clashes with Libya’s oil-guard commandos near Brega
Islamic State peaceniks pose with shahada. Image source: www.bbc.com

[Ed. – This is a pretty big.  The existence of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) is the main thing keeping a semblance of balance in Libya: an armed force that serves at the moment to make it too hard for the competing factions in the eastern and western halves of the country to try to seize control.  The PFG has the unique characteristic of close connections with deep-pocketed oil interests outside the country — and hence has an informally privileged position with foreign governments.  The power of the PFG is why ISIS has been attacking the Libyan oil industry for months now.  A direct clash, in which ISIS injured the PFG commander, is a disquieting sign.]

Islamic State militants clashed with a Libyan force guarding oil ports near Brega terminal on Saturday, killing one guard and wounding four including Ibrahim Jathran, leader of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), a spokesman and medical sources said.

Islamic State has a base in the Libyan city of Sirte and has launched frequent attacks against oil facilities and ports, including major export terminals that are closed but controlled by Jathran’s PFG brigades.

The PFG is one semi-official armed group that is backing a new unity government in Libya, where two rival administrations and their loose alliances of former rebels have been battling for control after the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Fighting between PFG and a convoy of Islamic State militants broke out 52 km south of the Brega oil terminal early on Saturday, PFG spokesman Ali al-Hassi and a medical source said.

Hassi said those wounded included Jathran, though he did not give details of how Jathran was injured.

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