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article imageLibyan authorities claim to have seized tanker from rebel port

By Ken Hanly     Mar 10, 2014 in World
Benghazi - Libyan authorities from the state oil firm NOC claim that the Libyan navy has seized a North Korean flagged oil tanker that illegally attempted to leave a port blockaded by rebels who have been trying to sell oil independently of the government.
The authorities from the NOC said the tanker was being escorted to a government-controlled port in the western part of Libya on the evening of March 10. Earlier, however, a rebel spokesperson claimed that the government did not have control of the tanker.
There are very conflicting accounts of what is happening. Adel al-Tarhouni of the Libyan Revolution Operation Room, a militia outfit that supports the government, said that the ship's captain had surrendered and that the ship had been surrounded by a pro-government flotilla of ships armed with mortars and rocket launchers for the last two days.
The Libyan Culture Minister Habib al-Ameen denied that there was any militia involvement and claimed the operation was carried out by "national forces." An attempt to resist was met by force but with no casualties. He claimed because of technical problems the tanker had not left port but was in the process of being led out to another port.
A third account by a local rebel commander denied both the above claims and said that his group had arrested some pro-government fighters. At this time, ABC claims that none of the three accounts could be independently verified.
Libyan officials say that the tanker the Morning Glory had loaded $30 million worth of crude oil at the rebel held Es Sider port. The local daily al-Wasat said the ship had loaded oil worth $36 million. The rebels hold three ports in Eastern Libya. The rebels are associated with the autonomy movement in eastern Libya that has declared its own autonomous Cyrenaica government and has its own oil company.
The three ports had handled more than 700,000 barrels of oil a day before the blockade that started last summer. The Libyan parliament (GNC) passed an order to form a military force of regular soldiers and loyal militias to free the ports The operation was to start within a week Nuri Abu Sahmain said. The decree was published by spokesperson Omar Hmeidan who told Reuters: "The force will be set up to liberate the ports and end the blockage."
The prime minister had ordered the armed forces over a month to go to free the ports from the blockade. His orders were never carried out. Earlier Prime Minister Zeidan had said the military would bomb the vessel if it tried to leave. Officials also said Sunday that the navy had dispatched boats to stop the vessel from sailing from the dock. Libyan websites have shown photos of a boat said to be the Morning Glory with small vessels nearby.
The prime minister of the Cyrenaica autonomous government, Abb-Rabbo a Barasso. warned against "harming any tanker or sending navy ships into the waters of Cyrenaica," He also threatened war with the central government saying that if the tanker was harmed, "the response from Cyrenaica's defence forces, oil guards and revolutionaries will be decisive. Such a move would be a declaration of war."
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