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UPDATE 4-Clashes halt oil loadings at major Libyan ports of Es Sider, Ras Lanuf - sources

Lanuf - sources@ (Adds statement from armed group leader, background)

BENGHAZI, Libya/LONDON June 14 (Reuters) - Libya's Es Sider oil port shut on Thursday due to armed clashes in the area and at least one storage tank in the neighboring Ras Lanuf terminal was set alight, an engineer told Reuters.

Loadings were suspended at Ras Lanuf, according to a local shipping agent.

The clashes between forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) and rival armed groups were taking place south of Ras Lanuf, where the LNA was targeting its rivals with air strikes, local sources said.

The LNA took control of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf along with other oil ports in Libya's oil crescent in 2016, allowing them to reopen after a long blockade and significantly lifting Libya's oil production.

Storage tanks at both terminals were badly damaged in previous fighting and have yet to be repaired, though there have been regular loadings from Es Sider.

A military source said the three-pronged attack was launched by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), a group that has previously tried to take the oil crescent and advance on Benghazi, which has been fully controlled by Haftar since late last year.

Ibrahim Jathran, who headed an armed group that blockaded the terminals for more than two years before being forced out by the LNA, appeared in a video posted on social media announcing the start of a campaign.

"We announce the preparation of our ground forces and supporting forces in the oil region, and our objective is to overturn the injustice for our people over the past two years," he said, standing in a camouflage jacket in an unidentified desert area.

"The past two years have been catastrophic for people in the oil crescent because of the presence of the system of injustice which is the other face of terrorism and extremism."

Repeated previous attempts by the LNA's opponents to retake the oil crescent have failed, and it is unclear how much military and local, tribal support Jathran or BDB forces currently have.

The clashes were not affecting any oilfields, the military source said.

A local resident said he had heard the sound of heavy clashes and air strikes at dawn and had seen a large fire at the Ras Lanuf tank farm.

Crude exports from Ras Lanuf stood at 110,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May, while exports from Es Sider were around 300,000 bpd, according to oil analytics company Vortexa.

The Minerva Lisa oil tanker, which was due to arrive at Es Sider to load a crude cargo on Thursday, was advised to stay outside the port, a source familiar with the matter said.

The tanker, chartered by trader Petraco, was seen turning away from the port on Thursday morning without loading, according to Reuters ship tracking.

A second tanker, the Seascout, is expected to arrive at the port on June 18.

Libya's oil production recovered last year to just over 1 million bpd and has been mostly stable, though it remains vulnerable to shutdowns and blockades at oil facilities.

National output is still well under the more than 1.6 million bpd Libya was producing before a 2011 uprising led to political fragmentation and armed conflict.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Ahmad Ghaddar; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by David Evans and Mark Potter)