A team of Navy SEALs has boarded the oil freighter “Morning Glory” in the Mediterranean that had been seized by three armed Libyans, the Pentagon said.
No one was hurt in the raid, which took place late Sunday in international waters off Cyprus. The North Korean-flagged ship and its illicit cargo of Libyan oil will now be sailed back to Libya under the control of the U.S. Navy.
“No one was hurt tonight when U.S. forces, at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments, boarded and took control of the commercial tanker Morning Glory, a stateless vessel seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
The team of Navy SEALs boarded the oil freighter from the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG-80) which, according to Kirby, “provided helicopter support and served as a command and control and support platform for the other members of the force assigned to conduct the mission.”
The Morning Glory will soon head to Libya under the control of a team of sailors from another U.S. destroyer, the USS Stout (DDG-55), which will supervise the transit.
The freighter reportedly was a North Korean-flagged vessel loaded with 200,000 barrels of oil. The port is under the control of Libyan rebel forces seeking more autonomy from the Libyan government who control crucial oil facilities and ports in eastern Libya. It is unclear if the vessel really is a North Korea vessel.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki issued a statement last week that the United States was “deeply concerned by reports that a vessel sailing under the name Morning Glory is loading a cargo of illicitly obtained oil at the Libyan port of As-Sidra.”
Psaki said “This action is counter to law and amounts to theft from the Libyan people. The oil belongs to the Libyan National Oil Company and its joint venture partners. These partners include U.S. companies in the Waha consortium. Any oil sales without authorization from these parties places purchasers at risk of exposure to civil liability, penalties and other possible sanctions in multiple jurisdictions.”
The Morning Glory escaped a blockade of Sidra imposed by the government in Tripoli. That precipitated a political crisis in Libya where the Libyan Parliament passed a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Ali Zeidani, who then reportedly fled to Europe.
There are real concerns now that Libya could spiral into a civil war between factions from eastern and western Libya.