The U.S. Navy turned over to Libyan authorities the North Korean oil tanker that had been loaded with crude at a rebel-controlled port in the eastern part of the country in defiance of the central government.
The Morning Glory was seized by U.S. Navy Seals in international waters after it left Es Sider.
Hours before the handover Saturday, a gun battle injured at least 16 people when pro-government forces at an army base in the eastern part of the country were attacked by rebels who have blockaded most of Libya’s oil production and handling facilities.
Ibrahim Jathran, who leads the rebel forces in the east, has demanded a share of Libya’s oil resources and revenues.
The oil and gas resources are now the main dispute between the central government in Tripoli responsible for the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi three years ago and rebels opposing the government.
“U.S. special forces boarded and seized the Morning Glory tanker last Sunday off Cyprus, days after it left Libya with a cargo of crude from one port, Es Sider, occupied by Jathran’s men who had vowed to export oil themselves to resist Tripoli,” Reuters said.
The three rebel-held ports account for around 700,000 barrels per day of Libya’s oil export capacity, Reuters said.