When the oil tanker Morning Glory ran a Libya naval blockage and escaped from a rebel-held port in eastern Libya carrying 234,000 barrels of crude oil, the prime minister was thrown out of office and the country descended closer to another full scale civil war and possible partition.
Libya’s biggest oil port, Es Sider, has been held since July 2013 by a rebel militia.
The North Korean tanker loaded crude in Es Sider in a direct deal with the rebels there, and in defiance of the weakening central government in Tripoli.
After the tanker ran a naval blockade and disappeared in open waters with its cargo, Prime minister Ali Zeidan, 63, was thrown out of office by the Libyan parliament.
Oil and gas account for 95% of government revenues.
Zeidan had threatened to bomb the tanker if it tried to leave Es Sider with crude oil.
But rebel leader Ibrahim Jathran, 33, who heads the Cyrenaica Political Bureau, didn’t back down.
Cyrenaica is the old name for Libya’s eastern province that contains two-thirds of the country’s oil.
Rebels last year took control of most of the oil and gas production in the east and seized Libya’s three key oil terminals.
Rebel activity has reduced the country’s production from 1.4 million bpd in mid-2013 to 230,000 bpd now.
Jathran’s supporters say his group isn’t planning to break away from Libya.
But Essam Jimani. a spokesperson for Jathran, told the Guardian: “We don’t want independence. But if the Muslim Brotherhood are too powerful and it led to civil war, we would be forced to become an independent state.”
“While Morning Glory was taking on oil, US ambassador Deborah Jones declared that Jathran’s actions amounted to “theft from the Libyan people,” the Guardian said.
After the Morning Glory escaped with its load of crude, the government in Tripoli replaced Prime Minister Zeidan with former defense minister Abdullah al-Thani.
Prosecutors have charged Zeidan with corruption and slapped a travel ban on him.
But Zeidan has accused the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Justice and Construction party leads the Islamist coalition, of “undermining” him, the Guardian said.
After charges were filed against Zeidan and he was banned from traveling, he somehow managed to board a private plane in Tripoli and fly to Germany.
He said he hopes someday to return to Libya.