February 13, 2016 / 5:25 PM / in 2 years

Libyan naval forces in Tripoli say have seized foreign tanker

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan naval forces have seized a Sierra Leone-flagged oil tanker on suspicion of illegally entering Libyan waters in an attempt to smuggle gasoline, authorities said on Saturday.

Captain Khayyam, a Sierra Leone-flagged oil tanker, is seen in Tripoli Naval Base after Libyan naval forces captured it, February 13, 2016. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

The vessel, the Captain Khayyam, was stopped in Libyan waters on Friday night 25 miles northwest of Zuwarah city, and was carrying 1.6 million liters of gasoline, said Ayoub Qassem, a spokesman for the naval forces allied to Tripoli’s self-declared government.

“The tanker was seized due to illegal entrance to Libyan waters without permission,” Qassem said. He said more details would be announced when the tanker was docked in Tripoli.

He said it was a sailing under a Sierre Leone flag with a crew of nine including nationals of Turkey, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan, including one woman.

Five years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has two rival governments each backed by competing armed factions, and a U.N.-backed government of national unity that is trying to bring the sides together but faces resistance on the ground.

Each side accuses the other of illegally trying to smuggle out oil or bringing in weapons to arm Islamist militants or other fighting groups. Tankers and ships are often seized off the coast, and have in the past been hit with air strikes.

In September, military forces allied with Tripoli said they had captured a Russian-flagged oil tanker and its crew trying to smuggle oil from the port of Zawara. Some of those crew have been released, others face trial.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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