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US Navy SEALS Seize Renegade Oil Tanker

  • VOA News

A rebel holds the Cyrenaica flag while standing on a boat where a North Korean-flagged tanker had loaded crude oil, at Es Sider port in Ras Lanuf, Libya, March 11, 2014.
The Libyan government has thanked the United States for a Navy operation that stopped an oil tanker from exporting illicitly obtained crude oil.

The U.S. Defense Department said Monday that U.S. Navy SEALS took control of the tanker while it was in international waters near Cyprus. U.S. sailors are taking the ship back to Libya.

A Pentagon statement said no one was hurt in the boarding of the "stateless vessel seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans."

It said the action was requested by the Libyan and Cypriot governments and approved by U.S. President Barack Obama. Cyprus had been monitoring the tanker, called Morning Glory, which was anchored near its coast.

Libya's interim government said in a statement Monday that it thanks all those who contributed to the ship's return, especially the United States and Cyprus.

The Morning Glory loaded the oil in the Libyan port of As-Sidra, which is controlled by a rebel militia that seeks more autonomy for eastern Libya.

The tanker evaded Libyan naval forces, prompting a backlash against Prime Minister Ali Zeidan who was forced from office by the national assembly.

The tanker had been a North Korean-flagged ship. But Pyongyang has denied responsibility, saying the vessel is linked to an Egyptian company. North Korea then revoked the registration of the ship.

The Libyan government said it has ordered special forces to deploy within two weeks to bring all rebel-held ports back under government control.

The standoff has cut Libya's oil exports by more than 80 percent.