US Navy Seals board and capture North Korea's rogue Morning Glory oil tanker which had illegally loaded up at rebel-held port in Libya

Tanker had escaped Libyan naval blockade with around 250,000 barrels of state-owned crude - leading to collapse of PM Ali Zeidan's government

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The Independent Online

US Navy Seals have boarded a North Korean-flagged oil tanker that was loaded up at a rebel-held Libyan port earlier this month.

The US Department of Defense issued a statement saying no one was hurt in the operation, which was requested by the Libyan government and sanctioned in international waters southeast of Cyprus.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the Seals successfully took control of the rogue vessel, and that their actions had been approved by President Barack Obama.

The arrival of the Morning Glory vessel at the As-Sidra port sparked a chain of events which led to Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan being voted out of office by his own parliament.

The tanker was able to break a Libyan government naval blockade on the port, illegally pick up a reported 234,000 barrels of state-owned crude oil that had been seized by rebels.

The Libyan navy tried to seize the vessel and escort it to a government-held port on 10 March, but despite being fired upon it was able to escape.

A rebel in the As-Sidra port holds the flag of the eastern Libyan region of Cyrenaica, 11 March 2014 (Reuters)

Military personnel blamed the rough weather for its failure, an ultimately crippling embarrassment for Zeidan's government after a minister had pledged the tanker would be "turned into a pile of metal" if it left port.

Mr Kirby's statement said: "The Morning Glory is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company. The ship and its cargo were illicitly obtained from the Libyan port of As-Sidra."

The Cypriot ministry of foreign affairs told Reuters the vessel was now heading west in the Mediterranean with a US military escort. It had been anchored 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Cyprus when the Navy Seals operation was carried out at around midnight Cyprus time.