Navy SEALs seize a North Korean flagged tanker. In a predawn raid, two dozen Navy SEALs seized a North Korean flagged oil tanker off the coast of Cyprus. The Navy had shadowed the ship since its departure from the Libyan port of Sidra. Approaching the tanker in sea boats from the U.S.S. Roosevelt, a guided missile destroyer, Navy SEALs fired no shots and injured no one during the raid.
Upon boarding the Morning Glory, the SEALs team dispersed throughout the ship. Three Libyan rebels were captured by the SEALs. The ship’s captain described them as hijackers. The Navy SEALs seizing a North Korean flagged tanker completed their mission within two hours after boarding. The three captured Libyans will remain in U.S. custody until the tanker returns to western Libya, a trip estimated to take at least four days.
The rebels holding eastern Libya threatened to gain revenue from the country’s vast oil reserves that are found in that area. What the rebels required was a means to transport the oil. The Morning Glory provided the means of transporting the oil to the black market. Once sold, the revenues could purchase arms and supplies for the rebels.
Last week, the Libyan government threatened to bomb the ship if it left port. When the Morning Glory set sail, Libyan lawmakers removed Prime Minister Ali Zeidan from office in a no confidence vote and appointed the country’s defense minister, Abdullah al-Thinni as interim leader.
Maritime records indicate the Morning Glory was owned by a United Arab Emirate company and based in Saudi Arabia. Its crew of 21 consisted of six nationalities that included six Indians, six Pakistanis, three Sri Lankans, two Sudanese, two Syrians, and two Eritreans.
Last week, a spokesman from the State Department warned that any shipment of Libyan oil without the expressed permission of a coalition government based in Tripoli would be deemed as theft from the Libyan people. When the Morning Glory left port, the government of Libya and later Cyprus requested American assistance in capturing the tanker. Cyprus became involved when the Morning Glory entered its territorial waters. President Obama authorized the SEAL raid on Sunday night. The Libyan government expressed its thanks to the United States in participating in the predawn operation and also thanked the Republic of Cyprus for allowing the U.S. to intervene in its territorial waters.
American intervention has dealt a setback to Ibrahim Jathran, a 33 year-old leader from eastern Libya. His militia controls the port where the Morning Star shipped out. Jathran fought against Colonel Qaddafi and at one time was entrusted by the current government with protecting the oil infrastructure. He has since allied himself with a federalist group. Jathran has declined to reopen the ports he controls until the current government investigates corruption allegations. He has also demanded greater autonomy and oil revenues for eastern Libya.
The capture of the Morning Glory has established a stalemate. Jathran lacks the shipping to sell oil on the black market and refuses to support the current government with oil sales. His forces control eastern Libya where most of the oil reserves are found. Jathran refuses to open the ports he controls and without oil, the ruling government has no direct revenue short of tanker being returned by the U.S. Navy SEALs seizing a North Korean flagged tanker off the coast of Cyprus will continue the current Libyan stalemate.
By Brian T. Yates