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Libya's oil company empties storage tanks in Ras Lanuf after Islamic State attacks

BENGHAZI (Reuters) - Libya’s National Oil Corporation has emptied oil storage tanks at the Ras Lanuf terminal as a precaution after Islamic State militants attacked the country’s two biggest oil ports last week, an official from the company said on Monday.

Fire rises from an oil tank in the port of Es Sider, in Ras Lanuf, Libya, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

Islamic State attacked the major Libyan oil terminals of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, which lie between the town of Sirte, which is controlled by Islamic State, and the eastern city of Benghazi.

The attacks triggered several days of clashes between militants and the Petroleum Facilities Guard and caused fires at five oil storage tanks in Es Sider and two others at the Ras Lanuf facility about 13 miles away.

The Petroleum Facilities Guard, which lost 18 of its members in the attacks and clashes, said the last of those fires were put out on Friday.

“We have taken all the oil stored in the tanks there (Ras Lanuf) to a safer location,” Mohamed al-Manfi, an official at the National Oil Corporation in eastern Libya said.

Al-Manfi declined to give further details but he told Reuters last week that each of the oil tanks was estimated to contain 420,000 to 460,000 barrels of oil.

Libya is split between political factions and armed groups competing for power and for the country’s oil wealth, four years after the revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. Oil output has dwindled to less than one quarter of a 2011 high of 1.6 million barrels per day.

Islamic State has used the security vacuum to expand its presence in Libya, though it has not taken control of oil installations in the country.

The United Nations is trying to win support for a deal to form a national unity government in Libya, but the plan has faced resistance from members of the rival parliaments.

(This story corrects to say that official is based in eastern Libya (not in Tripoli) in paragraph five)

Reporting By Ayman al-Warfalli, writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Susan Fenton