On 11 September, General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) announced and launched a secretive military operation named Sudden Lightening, and by 12 September the LNA had taken full military control of the Oil Crescent. Ras Lanuf, Sidra and Zuetina oil ports were wrested away from Ibrahim Jadhran’s Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), and are now under control of the House of Representatives-aligned (HoR) LNA.
Sidra and Ras Lanuf ports were taken in the early hours of 11 September with only a few shots fired. The PFG units at these ports were loyal to Jadhran, and most surrendered or fled leaving behind their arms and ammunition. In the evening, LNA units entered Brega port peacefully – PFG units in this port were already aligned with the LNA. Zeuitina port held out until the late hours of Sunday as Jadhran and a few remaining loyalists attempted to rally support, however it eventually fell to LNA control that night after LNA-aligned tribal chiefs guaranteed safe passage for Jadhran. By the end of 11 September, the LNA operation resulted in a complete collapse of Jadhran’s PFG forces’ control in the oil crescent.
However, the situation remains volatile. On 12 September, 3 PFG members reportedly died in clashes near the Sidra terminal and the LNA launched airstrikes against PFG units that attempted a counteroffensive just west of Brega. Local sources also report that Islamist militias, who are allied with Jadhran loyalists, are assembling in Nawfaliyah, west of Sidra, for a counter-attack. The Presidential Council (PC) issued a statement on 12 September declaring that the ‘unjustified escalation will prolong conflict and cause grave damages to Libyan lives and resources’, reiterating that any entity providing security for state institutions must be under the legitimacy of the GNA, and calling for consensus and dialogue.