US forces seize oil tanker from Libya rebel port

March 18, 2014 - 4:20:22 am

A tanker sails past the Hariqa oil port and loading installation -- one of several terminals in eastern Libya

TRIPOLI: US special forces have seized a tanker that fled with a cargo of oil from a Libyan port controlled by anti-government rebels, halting their attempt to sell crude on the global market.

Gunmen demanding regional autonomy and a share of oil wealth had managed to load the ship, which escaped Libya’s navy and triggered a crisis that prompted parliament to sack the prime minister.

A US SEAL commando team boarded the tanker Morning Glory from a Naval special warfare rigid inflatable boat as it sat in international waters off Cyprus on Sunday night. The seizure was approved by US President Barack Obama and requested by the Libyan and Cypriot governments, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said. 

No one was hurt in the under two hour operation, and no shots fired. Two AK47 rifles were found and the three Libyans holding the ship remained in US control.  The vessel was now heading west in the Mediterranean with a US military escort.  An American crew from the USS Stout, a guided missile destroyer, got the tanker under way toward Libya yesterday. 

The Morning Glory had been North Korean-flagged, but the government in Pyongyang on Thursday said it had notified Libya and maritime authorities that it had severed all ties with the ship because of the vessel’s contraband cargo. Reuters

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