US Navy SEALs captured an oil tanker on Monday that had loaded crude at a rebel-held port in eastern Libya and escaped to sea, the Pentagon said.
The Tripoli government’s failure to halt the tanker had plunged the country into one of its biggest crises since late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was toppled by a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, with parliament ousting then-Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan, who fled the country.
No one was hurt when US forces, at the request of both Libya and Cyprus, “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 operation was approved by US President Barack Obama and was conducted in the early hours of Monday in international waters southeast of Cyprus.
The naval commandos operated from the USS Roosevelt, a guided missile destroyer that provided helicopter support, while sailors from another destroyer, the USS Stout, boarded the tanker and prepared to sail it to an unnamed port in Libya, Kirby said in a statement.
The Morning Glory last week slipped through a Libyan naval blockade of the eastern port of al-Sidra — controlled by rebels seeking autonomy from Tripoli — after reportedly being loaded with about 234,000 barrels of crude.
Libya’s interim government confirmed the takeover of the ship and thanked the US and Cyprus.
It said in a statement the tanker was on its way to Libya and that crew members “will be treated in accordance with national and international laws.”
“Oil is the lifeblood of the national economy and any attack on the treasures of the Libyan people is unacceptable and cannot go without a response,” it added.
Cyprus said its vessels had deployed to monitor the tanker’s course as it made its way near the Mediterranean island, remaining in international waters and eventually stopping 18 nautical miles (33km) south of the southern port city of Limassol.
The tanker did not ask for authorization to moor in a Cypriot port, and early on Monday, Cypriot officials were notified that the tanker “was placed under the control of the US Navy and is being escorted by US Navy vessels on a westerly course.”
In a related development, reports in the Cypriot media said two Israelis and a Senegalese national were questioned by police on Saturday on suspicion of negotiating to buy crude from the tanker.
A Cyprus court declined to issue arrest warrants as authorities had no evidence that the alleged offense was committed within territorial waters.
Local media said the three flew in to Larnaca on a private jet late on Friday, hired a boat and went out to the tanker to negotiate with the crew.
Police monitored their movements and the boat was intercepted once they were back in Cyprus waters. The trio flew out to Tel Aviv on Sunday night.
The oil tanker’s escape after Libyan authorities had repeatedly vowed to take all measures to stop it dramatically underscored the weakness of the central government, which has struggled to rein in heavily armed former rebels from the 2011 revolt.
Rebels pressing for autonomy for Libya’s eastern Cyrenaica region — epicenter of the revolt against Qaddafi — have been blockading the country’s eastern oil terminals since July last year, leading to a decline in exports from 1.5 million barrels a day to just 250,000.
However, the Morning Glory incident marked a major escalation in the struggle and triggered the ouster on Tuesday last week of the liberal-backed Zeidan, whose inability to bring law and order to Libya was highlighted by his own brief abduction by armed men last year.
The Morning Glory was originally a North Korean-flagged ship, but Pyongyang on Wednesday last week “canceled and deleted” its registry on grounds it was carrying contraband material.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”