Last night, US Navy SEALs boarded an oil tanker in international waters southeast of Cyprus. The ship, the Morning Glory, which is flying under the North Korean flag, took on oil at the port of As-Sidra in Libya on March 8th. The oil was loaded onto the ship by a militia seeking greater autonomy for the country’s eastern portion, Cyrenaica. The oil was proprety of the Libyan government’s The North Koreans have denied any connection to the vessel and have since canceled its registration with their country.
The incident is the latest in a series of serious confrontations between Libya’s fragile government and militias who continue to operate with virtual autonomy in various areas of the country. Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan had said the country’s navy had prevented the tanker from leaving the area last Monday. The tanker actually evaded capture and moved further into the Mediterranean Sea. Libya’s parliament responded by ousting Zeidan in a vote of no confidence. Separatist militiamen have been in control of As-Sidra’s oil terminal since last July. The hope is that the US raid will act as a deterrent to future attempts to export the oil independently.
The operation, reportedly conducted at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments, is part of a noticeable uptick in special operations forces raids on the continent. Last October, a raid was launched into Libya that resulted in the capture of Abu Anas al Libi, wanted in connection with the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, as well as other terrorist attacks.
Navy SEALs attached to Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) reportedly conducted the raid, which was launched from the USS Roosevelt, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The SEALs took control of the ship from Libyan rebels, but a team of sailors from the USS Stout, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, will supervise the transit of the tanker back to Libya. There was no official information on what SEAL team was involved in this operation, but the use of the word “attached” suggests that they may have come from outside of Europe and then been placed under the operation control of SOCEUR’s Naval Special Warfare Unit Two (NSWU-2) for the actual mission. It is also worth noting that the decision was made to place the SEALs under the control of SOCEUR rather than Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) and its assigned Naval Special Warfare Unit Ten. SOCEUR and SOCAFRICA are both located in Germany.