(Reuters) – Libya’s defense ministry has issued orders to its military authorizing the use of force to stop a North Korea-flagged tanker loading crude oil sold by armed rebels seeking to bypass the Tripoli government, state media said on Sunday.
The rebels, who have seized three major Libyan ports since August to press demands for a greater share of oil revenues and political autonomy, received the tanker on Saturday at the Es Sider port in the volatile east.
The docking and loading of crude escalates a seven-month blockade of key oil ports and is just one facet of deepening turmoil in the OPEC producer, which is struggling to control militias that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but kept their weapons and now challenge state authority.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said on Saturday Libya would bomb the 37,000-tonne tanker if it tried to exit the port, one of Libya’s biggest oil export terminals.
State news agency LANA said on Sunday the defense ministry had issued orders to the military and warned the tanker’s owner.
“The defense ministry issued orders to the chief of staff, air force and navy to take care of this tanker which entered Libyan waters without official permission,” LANA said.