U.S. Navy SEALs seized an oil ship, controlled by Libyan rebels, in international waters on Monday, putting to an end to a rebel attempt to transport and sell stolen oil on the black market. The commercial vessel Morning Glory made it through a Libyan naval blockade last week in an embarrassing episode for the Libyan government.
No one was injured in the U.S. operation to take back control of the ship, according a Pentagon statement. The Pentagon added that it was acting " at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments." The operation was approved by President Obama. There are few details on the size of the U.S. team involved, along with what kind of force was used to regain control of the ship.
The ship was carrying a supply of oil owned by the Libyan government's National Oil Company. It's headed back to an undisclosed port, now that it's under control again. The New York Times has more on just how politically dire the failure to recover the stolen supply was for the Libyan government:
The American intervention is a salvation to the fragile transitional government in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, which would have faced the loss of its main source of revenue and its sole source of political power if renegade militias succeeded in selling Libya’s oil. Despite days of furious bluster, the Libyan authorities were unable to stop the tanker from arriving in the eastern port of Sidra early last week or from leaving with the oil a few days later. The loss of control over oil revenue threatened the government so gravely that the transitional government appeared to teeter, with Parliament voting to remove its prime minister without any consensus on his long-term replacement.
The Libyan interim government confirmed the recovery of the ship and its oil supply, adding that the crew members "will be treated in accordance with national and international laws." Separatist militia groups in Libya have targeted the country's oil supply for months, meaning that the Morning Glory episode really couldn't have come at a worse time for the interim government. According to the AFP, blockade efforts by Libyan militias since July have reduced the country's daily exports from 1.5 million barrels a day to 250,000 barrels a day.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.