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US navy hands rogue oil tanker back to Libya

Control of captured North Korean-flagged oil tanker transferred to Libyan forces while in international waters.

Last updated: 22 Mar 2014 15:29
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The Morning Glory tanker was due to arrive later on Saturday at Libya's Zawiya port [Reuters]

The US navy has handed over to Libyan authorities an oil tanker it intercepted after the vessel took to sea with crude illegally loaded at a rebel-held port, the US embassy in Libya said.

Earlier today, US forces turned control of the M/T Morning Glory over to the government of Libya," it said in a statement.

"The handover took place in international waters off the coast of Libya, and the government of Libya and its security forces are now in control of the vessel."

The embassy said the transfer of the Egyptian-owned tanker had taken place smoothly and as planned, with the US and Libya in close cooperation, the AFP news agency reported.

"We have been assured by the government of Libya that the captain, crew members and Libyan nationals who were aboard the stateless tanker will be treated humanely in accordance with internationally recognised standards of human rights," it said.

Illegal crude load

Last week, the Morning Glory slipped through a Libyan naval blockade off the eastern port of Al-Sidra, controlled by rebels seeking autonomy from Tripoli, after reportedly being loaded with about 234,000 barrels of crude.

US navy SEALS captured the Morning Glory off Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean on Monday.

Its escape after Libyan authorities had repeatedly vowed to take all measures to stop it underscored the weakness of the central government, which has struggled to rein in heavily armed former rebels from the 2011 revolt.

Rebels pressing for autonomy for Libya's eastern Cyrenaica region, epicentre of the revolt against ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi, have been blockading eastern oil terminals since July.

That has led to a decline in exports from 1.5 million barrels a day to just 250,000.

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