Misrata under air attack for first time since beginning of Libya clashes

Oil at heart of conflict

TRIPOLI - Forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government carried out their first air strikes Sunday against militia-held third city Misrata, a spokesman said.
Colonel Ahmed Mesmari said the strikes were in response to a renewed attempt by the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) militia on Sunday morning to seize the key Al-Sidra oil export terminal.
Residents said the air strikes hit the school of aviation close to Misrata airport, the port and a steel plant.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Fajr Libya has been attempting to take Al-Sidra and the nearby Ras Lanuf terminal since Thursday when it killed at least 22 soldiers in a surprise attack by speedboat.
Seven of the 19 oil tanks at Al-Sidra were ablaze on Sunday as a result of the fighting, an oil official said.
Since clashes first erupted around the export terminals on December 13, Libya's oil production has dropped to less than 350,000 barrels per day compared with 800,000 previously, according to industry experts.
More than three years after dictator Moamer Gathafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed revolt, Libya is awash with weapons and powerful militias, and has rival parliaments as well as governments.
As well as Misrata, the capital Tripoli and second city Benghazi are largely in the hands of militia and the internationally recognised government has taken refuge in the remote east.