PHOTO: A burning vehicle after an Islamic State attack in northern Libya on Monday
UPDATE, JANUARY 5, 1130 GMT: Fighting is continuing for a second day near the oil port of Sidra.
The Islamic State militants attacked checkpoints about 30-40 km (19-25 miles) from the port, killing two guards and wounding 16.
The National Oil Corporation said an oil storage tank in the port was hit by a long-range missile, igniting a large fire.
Monday’s attacks left nine guards dead and 25 wounded, with five ISIS fighters and a civilian also killed. The fire in an oil tank at the port of Ras Lanuf has been contained but is still burning.
The Islamic State, trying to expand its foothold in Libya, has attacked forces near the Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil ports in the north of the country.
ISIS announced on Twitter that its fighters had led an “attack on the Al-Sidra area followed by violent clashes with the enemies of God.”
A colonel in the army loyal to the internationally-recognized Libyan Government said the attack began with a suicide vehicle bomb at the entrance to the town of Al-Sidra, killing two soldiers.
“We were attacked by a convoy of a dozen vehicles belonging to IS,” Bashir Boudhfira said. “They then launched an attack on the town of Ras Lanuf via the south but did not manage to enter.”
Ali al-Hassi, a spokesman for the forces that control most of Libya’s oil fields, says six of their fighters and five ISIS militants were killed. A Libyan newspaper said a senior Islamic State, Abu Hamam al-Tunisi, and two terminal guards were among the casualties.
A Libyan oil official said a 420,000-barrel oil tank in Ras Lanuf caught fire during the clashes.
Video of Islamic State fighters south of Sidra:
— Christiaan Triebert (@trbrtc) January 5, 2016
ISIS also tried to attack the oil terminal in October with a car bomb and a raid on a perimeter gate.
Sidra and the nearby Ras Lanuf oil port have been closed since June amid strikes and fighting between rival factions. They are protected by Ibrahim al-Jathran’s Petrol Facilities Guard, a federalist armed faction.
Sidra is Libya’s largest crude oil export terminal and can produce 340,000 barrels per day, while
Ras Lanuf can handle 220,000 barrels per day. After their closure, Libya has only 195,000 barrels per day export capacity.
The Islamic State took control of the city of Sirte, to the west of the oil ports, last summer. It has attacked several oilfields in southern Libya, but has not managed to occupy any installations so far.