U.S. Navy SEALs boarded and seized control of an oil tanker Sunday night that was held by Libyan rebels off the Cyprus coast.
The mission was approved by President Obama, according a Pentagon press statement.
“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,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon Press secretary, said Monday.
The elite special forces seized the tanker – held by three Libyan rebels – after it evaded a naval blockade and the ship sailed out of a Libyan port. The Department of Defense said no one was injured in the operation.
The seizure mission was designed to halt attempts by the rebels to sell petroleum on the global market, and was ordered “at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments,” Kirby said:
“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 … 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 vessel holds roughly $36 Million in crude oil; Libyan rebels have demanded a greater share of oil wealth and managed to load the crude onto the ship, and which escaped Libya’s navy, embarrassing the government and prompting parliament to sack the prime minister, according to BBC.
The tanker is sailing back Libya under escort, the Pentagon said, likely to a port under the control of Libyan government forces. Rebels took control of eastern Libya’s main oil ports months ago with the intention to sell the oil on the black market.
The Morning Glory was originally flagged under North Korea, but the country denied any association said the flagging of the vessel had been in error and that it had no connection with its owners, BBC reported.