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Libyan Fighters Say They Aim to Take Benghazi

FILE - Damaged tanks and pipelines are seen at the oil port of Ras Lanuf, Libya, Jan. 11, 2017.

Militias in Libya who recently captured two key oil terminals around Benghazi say they want to extend their fight to try to capture the entire city of Benghazi.

"Our main goal is to return our city," said Col. Mustafa Alsharksi, the leader of the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB), which includes Islamic militants and former rebels.

The BDB took control of the key oil terminals of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, which also includes an airport, on Friday from the eastern-based Libyan National Army, or the LNA.

The LNA said Monday they are preparing a large counteroffensive to retake the oil terminals. The group has been carrying out airstrikes on BDB positions since losing the oil terminals, but have not succeeded in repelling them.

Efforts to take over Libya's oil ports raise the prospect of increased violence in the region.

After the LNA seized four ports in September, Libya's oil production sharply increased, presenting a challenge to the authority of the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli.

The internationally backed Government of National Accord controls part of Tripoli, while rival powers compete for other parts of the country.

Libya descended into chaos after a 2011 uprising led to the toppling of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.