Updated: August 4 12.30 p.m.

A Libyan tanker believed to have been seized off Malta early yesterday morning has arrived in Benghazi after obtaining clearance fron Nato.

Rebels are believed to have seized the Libyan motor tanker Cartagena off Malta early this yesterday morning.

Sources said that around 1.30 a.m., the tanker was approached by an unlit Libyan flagged tug boat outside Maltese territorial waters and, according to online reports, boarded by Libyan rebel forces.

The tug boat then moved east while the tanker heaved anchor probably towards Benghazi. The movements were being shadowed by an AFM patrol boat while it was in Malta's search and rescue region after which Nato, which has 17 ships in the Mediterranean enforcing a UN arms embargo on Libya, continued tracking the vessel.

A Nato official has confirmed that the tanker had been cleared to enter Benghazi.

According to online reports, the Cartagena, which belongs to GNMTC, which is controlled by Muammar Gaddafi's son Hannibal, is carrying almost 40,000 tonnes of gasoline.

Last month, Reuters had reported that the Cartagena had been trying to take 30,000 tonnes, or 250,000 barrels, home since mid-May.

Sources had told Reuters that the tanker loaded gasoline in a Turkish port and the Swiss company that sold the ship the fuel had claimed it had been duped into selling the fuel as Tripoli, Lebanon, had been listed as the destination.

When the tanker left the in early May, it sailed towards Zawiyah, a Gaddafi-controlled town and the main oil port adjacent to the Libyan capital.

NATO had initially approved the deal but while the Cartagena was en route to Zawiyah, it diverted another west-Libya-bound fuel tanker on the ground that the fuel would be used for military purposes.

The Cartagena had spent a month anchored off Malta while the Libyan government tried to come up with another means of unloading it and in early July, headed for the port of Annaba in Algeria. Algerian authorities had stopped the tanker from berthing.

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