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Libya Government in Tripoli Redirects Troops to Fight IS

  • Reuters

FILE - A view of part of the Es Sider oil export terminal in Ras Lanuf, west of Benghazi, March 11, 2014.

FILE - A view of part of the Es Sider oil export terminal in Ras Lanuf, west of Benghazi, March 11, 2014.

Libya's Tripoli-based government, which leads one of two warring factions, has ordered its forces to withdraw from bases near major oil ports to fight Islamic State militants in the central city of Sirte, a Tripoli lawmaker said Saturday.

The withdrawal may at some point result in the reopening of ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, both of which closed in December as both sides battled for their control.

Militants loyal to the Islamic State group have expanded in Libya, exploiting the security vacuum left by fighting between different parties since an uprising toppled Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

"The withdrawal of [the] forces is a tactical withdrawal to confront the organization of the Islamic State ... in Sirte," Belqasem Debbrez, deputy head of the defense committee in the Tripoli-based assembly, told Reuters.

Libya is divided into two groups, each of which has its own government, parliament and troops, vying for control of territory and oil facilities. One side operates out of Tripoli, and the other, internationally recognized administration is based in the east.

Earlier this year, militants attacked forces loyal to Tripoli in Sirte, a major central city, and seized government buildings, the university and a radio station.

The presence of Islamic State militants in Libya came to global attention in February when the group beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians, drawing international condemnation.

On Friday, a spokesman for forces loyal to the recognized government said they had observed the pullout of the rival force from the oil ports.

The forces reporting to the eastern government would stay in their positions, Ali al-Hassi had said.

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