World Bulletin / News Desk
A group of armed protesters who have been seizing oil ports in eastern Libya said on Saturday they had started exporting oil, with their first shipment going to a North Korean-flagged tanker.
Oil sources confirmed earlier on Saturday that the tanker was docked at the Es-Sider port, which is under the control of the group which is demanding autonomy and a greater share of Libya's oil wealth.
"We started exporting oil. This is our first shipment," a spokesman for the protesters said.
The Libyan authorities sent warplanes and Navy forces to force a North Korea-flagged oil tanker to leave an oil port controlled by militiamen in eastern Libya, a lawmaker said Saturday.
"The Air Force and Navy are dealing with the oil tanker, which entered Libya's territorial waters without permission from Libyan authorities," Ali Zawbi, the head of the Energy Committee at the National General Congress, told Anadolu Agency.
The tanker docked at the Sidra Port to get crude oil under an illegal deal with militiamen controlling the port and oilfields in the eastern Libyan Barca region, according to Zawbi.
The so-called "Barca Political Office" has been controlling the port since last July, calling for the application of a federal system of government in eastern Libya.
The oil standoff is one part of deepening turmoil in the North African OPEC producer, where the government is struggling to control militias who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but kept their weapons and are challenging state authority.
Any independent shipment would be a blow to Libya's government. Tripoli had said it would destroy tankers trying to buy oil from Ibrahim Jathran, a former anti-Gaddafi rebel who seized the port and two others with thousands of his men in August.
"We started exporting oil. This is our first shipment," said a spokesman for the protesters based in the eastern town of Ajdabiyah.
There was no immediate word from the Libyan government and navy about the shipment, but Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and the justice minister scheduled news conferences in the afternoon.Last Mod: 08 Mart 2014, 14:49