The U.S. Navy SEALs took control of a Libyan oil tanker Monday in the Mediterranean, south of Cyprus, after a Libyan militia took it over with the alleged intention of selling the oil on the black market.
The Department of Defense said in a statement Monday
that the ship Morning Glory was carrying oil owned by the Libyan government, but it was "illicitly obtained" by three armed Libyans from the Libyan port of As-Sadra. The Libyan government approached the U.S. for help.
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"The boarding operation, approved by President Obama and conducted just after 10 p.m. EDT on March 16 in international waters southeast of Cyprus, was executed by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs attached to Special Operations Command Europe," the statement said.
"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 department statement continued.
The New York Times reported that the tanker is currently being returned to Libya.
The military operation foiled plans by Libyan militia leader Ibrahim Jathran, who has blocked Libya's main oil ports for the past eight months.
Jathran reportedly planned to sell the oil on the black market and had been using the blockade to gain greater political power and oil revenue for eastern Libya.
While the Libyan government was reportedly unable to break Jathran's blockade, the militia was not able to profit from oil sales, which created a stalemate, according to the Times.
BBC News reported that it was the rebel's first effort to export oil
from a rebel-dominated area. It was not clear where the tanker was headed.
"The U.S. has sent a clear message to both potential traders of illicit oil and to the armed groups blocking Libya's terminals that it will not be easy to sell the oil from rebel-held areas," BBC News reported. "Libya matters to the U.S. partly because a failed state would be viewed as yet another failed U.S. adventure abroad, after it backed the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi."
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