Libya's army chief Khalifa Haftar (centre) reviews plan for an operation to regain control of the vital Oil Crescent region. The photo was released by the Libyan National Army on Thursday. Image Credit: Supplied

Cairo: The  Libyan army, commanded by the country’s strongman Khalifa Haftar, has said its forces retook full control of a major oil-rich region from a militia after a blitz attack.

Last week, hardline insurgents led by warlord Ebrahim Jardan, seized two main oil terminals in Libya’s Oil Crescent area, resulting in a disruption in oil exports.

Haftar ordered on Thursday an offensive dubbed the “Holy Invasion” to recapture the region located in north-eastern Libya. Later, the army said they forced Jardan’s followers to withdraw from the area and seized complete control of the oil terminals of Sidra and Ras Lanuf, Libya’s main facilities.

“The Armed Forces are in tight control of buildings and installations in the Oil Crescent region,” the army said on its Facebook page.

Army spokesman, Brig. Ahmad Al Mesmari, said that the liberation operation took 40 minutes only. He accused Qatar of standing behind the insurgents’ June 14 attack on the oil terminals there.

“Oil Crescent, which is five times larger than Qatar has foiled the Qatari plot,” Al Mesmari said without details.

“Those who attacked Oil Crescent [on June 14] wanted to hamper the plan for elections,” he added at a press conference late Thursday in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi. He was referring to a peace roadmap, brokered by France, including presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for December 10. Haftar agreed on the roadmap.

Al Mesmari said that 10 army personnel were killed in Thursday’s clashes in Oil Crescent.

The army said it had captured 38 Chadi mercenaries, who fought along with Jardan’s loyalists.

Others fled into Libya’s desert, local media reported on Friday.

The Oil Crescent region is strategically important because it has an estimated 80 per cent of Libya’s crude reserves. Around 60 per cent of Libya’s oil exports are handled there. In late 2015, Haftar forces seized the area from militias and handed it over to the state-run National Oil Corporation, allowing the resumption of exports there.  

Libya has experienced anarchy since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 armed revolt. 

Haftar has been leading a relentless drive against extremists in the country since May 2014. His forces are currently engaged in a massive campaign in the coastal city of Derna, a stronghold of Islamist hardliners. Derna is the last city in eastern Libya, which is still outside the army's control.