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The U.S. Navy is expected to turn over a tanker carrying contraband Libyan oil and three Libyan hijackers to the Libyan navy as early as Saturday after SEAL commandos seized the ship this week in the Mediterranean.
The handoff of North Korean-flagged Morning Glory will take place in international waters off the coast of Libya.
SEALs slipped aboard the tanker off Cyprus early Monday and easily overpowered the three Libyan hijackers without firing a shot. The 21 civilian crew members aboard the ship were rescued unharmed.
The tanker is currently manned by 34 U.S. Navy sailors from the USS Elrod, a guided-missile frigate, which is escorting the Morning Glory back to Libya.
The three hijackers, members of a powerful militia, commandeered the oil tanker in a Libyan port two weeks ago.
The United States intervened militarily after being asked to do so by the governments of Libya and Cyprus, U.S. officials said.
American officials acknowledge that the Libyan government has little or no power or authority beyond the capitol Tripoli more than two years after the U.S. military joined a multi-national military operation that forced the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi from power.