Libya’s Barqa region slams ‘U.S. piracy’ of oil tanker

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Libya’s Barqa region condemned on Tuesday as an act of “piracy” the U.S. Navy SEALs’s seizure of a North Korea-flagged tanker that had loaded crude oil at a port held by rebels in eastern Libya, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

Libyan rebel leader Ibrahim Jathran said the oil in the tanker belongs to the people of Libya's eastern Barqa (Cyrenaica) region and called on the Arab League to intervene.

Speaking to a rebel television station, Jathran said the United States had helped the government steal oil from the people in Libya's east.

“We will continue our fight,” said Jathran, who is seeking greater autonomy for the eastern region.

On Monday the Pentagon said the raid on the tanker was made at a “request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments.”

No one was hurt “when U.S. forces, at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments, boarded and took control of the commercial tanker Morning Glory, a stateless vessel seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement, reported by Agence France-Presse.

The ship was boarded by the SEALs just after 0200 GMT Monday “in international waters southeast of Cyprus” following President Barack Obama approval of the operation.

The statement said the ship “is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government's National Oil Company. The ship and its cargo were illicitly obtained from the Libyan port of As-Sidra.”

The Morning Glory, which departed from the eastern Libyan port of Al-Sidra -- controlled by rebels seeking autonomy from the authorities in Tripoli -- is reported to have loaded at least 234,000 barrels of crude, according to Agence France-Presse.

The ship was operated by an Egypt-based company that was allowed to temporarily use the North Korean flag under a contract with Pyongyang, North Korean state news agency KCNA said on Wednesday.

Pyongyang had “cancelled and deleted” the ship's North Korean registry, as it violated its law “on the registry of ships and the contract that prohibited it from transporting contraband cargo.”

“Therefore, the ship has nothing to do” with North Korea, which “has no responsibility whatsoever as regards the ship,” KCNA said.

[With AFP]

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