Libya seizes oil tankers and crew after shootout at sea

The Ruta oil tanker flying the Ukranian flag, is seen at the Tripoli seaport on April 29, 2017, after it was seized by the Libyan Navy off the coastal city of Zuwara, about 160 km west of Tripoli, along with another tanker flying the Congolese flag, for smuggling fuel. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2017
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Libya seizes oil tankers and crew after shootout at sea

LIBYA: Libya has seized two foreign-flagged oil tankers and detained their crews for allegedly smuggling fuel after an hours-long gunbattle off the west coast, authorities said.
Oil is Libya’s main natural resource, with reserves estimated at 48 billion barrels, the largest in Africa.
Libya had an output capacity of about 1.6 million barrels per day before the 2011 armed uprising, but production has since slumped as rival forces battle for control of its oil facilities.
The coast guard spotted the vessels on Thursday night two kilometers (1.2 miles) off Sidi Said near Zuwara, a town on the central coast, the authorities said.
“The Libyan coast guard boarded the two tankers, one flying the Ukrainian flag, the Ruta, and the other, the Stark, flying the Congolese flag,” said General Ayoub Qassem.
“The coast guards had monitored them from afar and waited until Friday morning to act,” he told AFP.
Qassem said the oil traffickers were heavily armed and were supported by small boats.
They had put up fierce resistance, but the tankers were eventually seized by the Libyan authorities, “after more than three hours of exchange of fire.”
On several occasions, “boats with armed men were returned... and opened fire on the coast guards” using Kalashnikovs and heavy machine guns, he said.
After they were overpowered, the two tankers and their crews were taken back to the capital Tripoli.
Among them were 14 Ukrainians from the Ruta and four Turks and two Georgians who were on the Stark, said Qassem.
Another three crew members from the Stark were in Zuwara, he said, without giving their nationality.
At the time of the seizure, the Ruta had around 3,330 tons of oil in its tanks, while the Stark, which can carry 1,236 tons, was about to be loaded with fuel when the coast guard arrived.
The crews of the two vessels were taken to Tripoli where they are to face prosecution.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, with dozens of armed factions battling for control of the oil-rich country.


Hezbollah leader boasts group has ‘highly accurate’ missiles

Updated 26 min 11 sec ago
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Hezbollah leader boasts group has ‘highly accurate’ missiles

BEIRUT: The leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah is boasting the group possesses “highly accurate” missiles despite Israeli attempts to prevent it from acquiring such weapons.
Hassan Nasrallah spoke in a televised speech on Thursday to supporters commemorating Ashoura, one of the most important religious holy days for Shiite Muslims.
Nasrallah says Israel knows the regional balance of power has changed, and that recent Israeli strikes in Syria to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring those weapons failed because this “has already been achieved.”
He says Hezbollah now has “highly accurate ... missiles” and that, should Israel impose a war on Lebanon, “it will face a fate and a reality it never expected.”
Israel worries Hezbollah has been improving its capabilities and increased its strikes in Syria to prevent weapons shipments to the group.