Update – Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby provided the following statement regarding the tanker Morning Glory:
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.
The boarding operation, approved by President Obama and conducted just after 10 p.m. EDT on March 16 in international waters southeast of Cypress, was executed by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs attached to Special Operations Command Europe.
The SEAL team embarked and operated from the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG-80). USS Roosevelt 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 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 As-Sidra.
The Morning Glory will be underway soon to a port in Libya with a team of sailors from the USS Stout (DDG-55) embarked. The sailors will be supervising the transit.
USS Roosevelt is homeported in Mayport, Fla. and is deployed as part of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group. USS Stout is homeported in Norfolk, Va.
Earlier, via Reuters:
BENGHAZI, Libya, March 16 – A tanker that loaded oil at a Libyan port held by rebels is still sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, a government minister said on Sunday, contradicting claims by the rebels that it had reached its destination.
The rebels, in the east of the country, who are calling for a greater share of oil wealth and autonomy, managed last week to load crude onto a 37,000 tonne-tanker, which escaped the Libyan navy, embarrassing the weak central government and prompting parliament to vote the prime minister out of office.
“The tanker has not reached its destination yet,” Justice Minister Salah al-Merghani told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi. “The tanker is still in the Mediterranean Sea.”
He gave no more details, saying only that the tanker’s movements were “being monitored internationally.”
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On Saturday, the rebels said the tanker had reached its final port, without saying where.
The Libyan navy lost contact with the tanker after firing on it on Monday or Tuesday, officials have said.
The standoff over control of the the OPEC country’s oil is part of wider turmoil that has engulfed the vast North African country since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi nearly three years ago.
The government and nascent army have struggled to control brigades of former anti-Gaddafi fighters who have refused to disarm and have used their military muscle to make political demands on the state, often by targeting the vital oil sector. (Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Feras Bosalum; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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