20 March 2014

US takes over oil tanker seized by Libyan rebels, sailing under North Korean flag

U.S. Navy Seals have taken over an oil tanker that was seized by Libyan rebels who fled from a rebel-controlled Libyan port and managed to escape the Libyan authorities. There were no casualties during the operation, which took place in international waters off of Cyprus on the night of 16 March. According to the Pentagon Press Secretary, John Kirby, the seizure was authorised by the U.S. President Obama and requested by the Libyan and Cypriot governments. He stated that ‘[t]he Morning Glory is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company. The ship and its cargo were illicitly obtained from the Libyan port of Es Sider.’

The tanker was run by an Egyptian-based company, which was authorised to temporarily sail under the North Korean flag, according to the North Korean state news agency KCNA. KCNA stated that North Korea had cancelled the ship from its registry, since it was in violation of its law ‘on the registry of ships and the contract that prohibited it from transporting contraband cargo’ and that ‘as such, the ship had nothing to do with North Korea, which has no responsibility whatsoever as regards the ship.’

According to a Cypriot police source, two men from Israel and one from Senegal, carrying diplomatic passports from Senegal and a central African country, were suspected of attempting to buy the tanker’s oil, but were released when the court would not issue arrest warrants.

On 18 March 2014, a Libyan rebel leader declared that the oil belongs to the people of Libya’s eastern Cyrenaica region and called for intervention by the Arab League. According to the rebels, the seizure by the U.S. is an illegal act of piracy.

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Source: Reuters | U.S. forces seize tanker carrying oil from Libya rebel port
Source: The Guardian | US navy Seals take over oil tanker seized by Libyan rebels
Source: Reuters | Libyan port rebels say U.S. seizure of oil tanker act of piracy
Source: Reuters | Oil in seized tanker belongs to Libya's east: rebel leader

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