Libyan tanker seized by rebels reaches Benghazi

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The Independent Online

A Libyan tanker reportedly seized by rebels opposing Muammar Gaddafi's regime on Tuesday night arrived in Benghazi yesterday after being cleared to proceed by Nato ships enforcing an arms embargo.

Sources familiar with the situation said the rebels seized the tanker Cartagena, which belongs to the Libyan government, off Malta. Nato forces then cleared the vessel to proceed, the sources said. A Nato spokesman declined to comment on a report in a petroleum industry newsletter, the Petroleum Economist, that the Cartagena was seized with the help of special forces from a European state.

The publication quoted "a source familiar with the operation" as saying a European government had given logistical support to the operation, which it said was believed to have involved special forces boarding the ship from the air. Colonel Roland Lavoie said earlier that "there were no such indications", but he gave no more details.

The vessel belongs to Libya's General National Maritime Transport Company, which is believed to be controlled by Colonel Gaddafi's son Hannibal, who is on a UN sanctions list and subject to an asset freeze and a travel ban.

The Petroleum Economist said the Cartagena was carrying almost 40,000 tonnes of gasoline. It said the ship was originally chartered to land the fuel in Tripoli and had been stranded in the Mediterranean after Nato began intercepting seaborne fuel supplies for Colonel Gaddafi in May.

While not specifically charged with enforcing a fuel embargo on Libya, Nato said in May it had intercepted an oil tanker which it said it had reason to believe was set to deliver fuel to Colonel Gaddafi's forces. It said then it would continue to do so on a case-by-case basis.