Washington, DC, United States (4E) – A team of U.S. Navy SEALs boarded and retook a crude oil tanker from three Libyan hijackers in the Mediterranean Sea 18 miles southwest of Cyprus late Sunday.
No one was injured in the takeover as the hijackers did not resist the commandos, who were dropped by a helicopter from the USS Roosevelt to the Morning Glory under cover of darkness, said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby on Monday. The hijackers were arrested and sailors of the Navy destroyer USS Stout took control of the vessel to sail it back to Libya.
U.S. President Barack Obama approved the operation at the request of the Libyan and Cypriot governments, Kirby said. The ship’s captain also requested for assistance as the hijackers threatened the crew with harm, an unnamed U.S. official told the Libya Herald.
The stateless Morning Glory was hijacked early this month by suspected Libyan insurgents and was loaded with 200,000 barrels of crude oil stolen at Libya’s Sidra port. Rebels controlling the port apparently were trying to sell the oil as they demand a greater share of oil revenue and autonomy from the government in Tripoli.
In a statement issued last week, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the vessel’s oil cargo is owned by the Libyan National Oil Company (LNOC) and its partners in a consortium that includes U.S. companies. The sale of the oil requires authorization from the LNOC and its partners, Psaki said.
The Libyan government failed to stop the vessel from leaving the port and sailing into international waters last week. Libyan forces fired on the vessel but the U.S. Navy called it off because of the risk of causing an oil spill. The Navy SEALs based in Stuttgart, Germany were then deployed to retake the ship.