Skip to main content

U.S. forces hand seized oil tanker back to Libya

By Jomana Karadsheh and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
March 22, 2014 -- Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)
U.S. Navy SEALs boarded the Morning Glory -- which was carrying Libyan oil -- in international waters off Cyprus.
U.S. Navy SEALs boarded the Morning Glory -- which was carrying Libyan oil -- in international waters off Cyprus.
  • U.S. forces have handed a tanker with an illegal oil shipment back to Libya
  • Three armed Libyans who had taken control of the tanker are also handed over
  • The transfer of the Morning Glory "went smoothly and as planned"
  • Rebel leader claims the tanker is legal and those on board should not be handed to Libya

(CNN) -- U.S. forces have handed possession of a tanker carrying an illegal oil shipment back to the Libyan government, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli said Saturday.

The tanker, which had been seized by three armed Libyans earlier this month, had sailed last week from the rebel-held port of As-Sidra in eastern Libya. It was carrying oil owned by Libya's National Oil Company.

U.S. Navy SEALs boarded the Morning Glory last weekend in waters southeast of Cyprus at the request of authorities in that country and Libya. Saturday's handover also was carried out in international waters.

Libya acts to seize North Korean ship
Libya acts to seize North Korean ship

The transfer of the Morning Glory "went smoothly and as planned," the U.S. Embassy said.

Speaking on Libyan television, Libyan navy spokesman Col. Ayoub Qassim said three Libyan navy vessels had received the tanker early Saturday along with the three Libyan detainees, the crew and the illegal oil shipment.

They are bringing the Morning Glory back to the port of Zawiya, a city about 30 miles west of the capital, Tripoli, he said. The oil will be unloaded in the Zawiya refinery, but it's not clear who the detainees will be handed over to.

In a statement on Tuesday, rebel leader Ibrahim Jadran, who heads the federalist armed group that is holding key Libyan oil ports in the east and who attempted to sell this illegal oil shipment, denied the tanker was hijacked and accused the United States of "blatantly violating international maritime law" by boarding it.

He warned the United States against handing those on board over to the Tripoli authorities, saying they would get tortured and receive unfair trials. The government said they would be safe and treated according to Libyan and international law.

The situation remains unsettled in the North African nation, which the government is struggling to control more than two years after the ouster of longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The conflict over oil wealth is stoking fears that Libya may slide deeper into chaos as the fragile government fails to rein in the armed brigades that helped remove Gadhafi in 2011 but now do as they please.

Libya, rebels argue over who controls oil tanker -- and Libya's oil

Ousted PM left Libya on way to 'another European country'

CNN's Ed Payne contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1521 GMT (2321 HKT)
The first human trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine has produced promising results, U.S. scientists said.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen in August abandoned home after address made public.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
HBO -- backing a documentary based on "Going Clear," a book about Scientology and Hollywood -- isn't taking any chances with legal side.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1935 GMT (0335 HKT)
Grandmaster Nguyen Van Chieu has devoted his adult life to spreading the word about Vietnames martial art, Vovinam.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
England cricketer Nick Compton shares insight into "drive and courage" it takes to face fears as top batsman.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.