In the aftermath of a daring raid by US Navy Seals on a ship illegally loaded with Libyan crude oil, two Israelis have been arrested on suspicion of trying to buy the illicit cargo from rebel militias.

Following the operation in the Mediterranean, which was authorised by President Obama, the Pentagon said it launched the mission after appeals from Libya and Cyprus.

The Times newspaper reported that Cypriot authorities had arrested two Israelis, together with a Senegalese national. The three are alleged to have flown into Larnaca on Friday before hiring a boat from the marina and sailing out to meet the tanker to crew to negotiate with the crew.

The oil the Israelis were allegedly trying to buy from the rogue tanker was worth $20 million, and will now be returned to Libyan authorities after it escaped a Libyan naval blockade last week.