Libyan forces loyal to a powerful general say they have seized a third oil terminal from a rival militia in the east, giving the divisive leader a bargaining chip in negotiations with rival U.N.-backed authorities in the capital, Tripoli.

Forces led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter said late Sunday that they had seized the Zueitina terminal from a militia known as the Petroleum Facilities Guards, hours after capturing the nearby terminals of Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra.

Most of Libya’s oil exports went through the three terminals before the militia seized them more than two years ago.

Hifter’s army units urged the state-run oil corporation, which is based in Tripoli, to resume oil exports.

Libya drifted into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and today is split between rival parliaments and governments in the east and west, each backed by a loose array of militias and tribes.

Hifter enjoys the support of the internationally-recognized parliament, which meets in the east. The parliament has refused to approve the formation of a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, in the west, in part because of differences over Hifter’s future role in Libya.

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The capture of the oil terminals could strengthen Hifter’s hand, making it more difficult to ignore demands from him and others in the east for more clout in a power-sharing government.

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Featured Image – El Saharara oil field, Libya – Wikimedia Commons