Navy SEALs Seize Hijacked Oil Tanker

Libyan rebels had been trying to sell oil on black market

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 17, 2014 7:24 AM CDT

(Newser) – US Navy SEALs boarded a hijacked oil tanker early today in international waters off Cyprus, wresting control of the vessel from Libyan rebels who were attempting to sell the oil on the black market. The Morning Glory initially sailed into a Libyan port under a North Korean flag early last week, but North Korea denied having anything to do with it, the New York Times reports. After three armed rebels seized the tanker, it "wander[ed] around the Mediterranean piloted by unknown sailors under an uncertain flag," as the Washington Post puts it.

Both the Libyan and Cypriot governments had requested US help, according to a Defense Department statement, and no one was injured in the operation. The press release says the oil on the "stateless vessel" is owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company, and the tanker will return to Libya. The debacle was a severe threat to the transitional Libyan government—parliament actually got rid of the prime minister amid the embarrassment, Reuters reports. Had the oil been sold, the government's main revenue source would have taken a hit. The Times says Ibrahim Jathran is the militia leader behind the heist; he is also behind an eight-month blockade of Libya's main oil ports.

A Libyan army soldier checks vehicles at a checkpoint at a gate of Tripoli's main port in Libya, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013.
A Libyan army soldier checks vehicles at a checkpoint at a gate of Tripoli's main port in Libya, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013.   (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
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