British "secret agents" held in Libya

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:46 am IST

Published - March 06, 2011 12:15 pm IST - London

The British government was on Sunday facing embarrassment after a secret mission sent to liaise with rebel groups in Libya ended in humiliation with at least eight men, including reportedly six members of the elite Special Air Service (SAS), being captured by the very people they had gone to help.

Libyan opposition figures were reported to be angry over British intervention as they feared that it could be used by the Qadhafi regime as evidence of western interference. Last week, a proposal by Prime Minister David Cameron for military intervention in Libya was shot down by other countries precisely on the same grounds.

According to media reports, the men were intercepted as they reportedly escorted a junior British diplomat through rebel-held areas of Benghazi. The diplomat, it was claimed, was on a mission to assess the needs of groups fighting the Libyan forces and offer them help.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox confirmed that a diplomatic team was in Libya and in touch with rebel groups but declined to comment on the arrests.

“Diplomatic team”

“There is a small diplomatic team in the eastern city of Benghazi. We are in touch with them but it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on that for reasons I am sure you will understand,” he told the BBC.

Earlier, The Sunday Times said that angry Libyan opposition figures “ordered the soldiers to be locked up on a military base”. The Libyans “reacted furiously saying nobody had invited the British”, it said.

The BBC quoted eyewitnesses as saying they saw six men in black overalls land in a helicopter near the city of Benghazi early on Friday and they were met by two others.

“Witnesses said that when the men's bags were checked they were found to contain arms, ammunition, explosives, maps and passports from at least four different nationalities.

The witnesses said at that point all eight men were arrested and taken to an army base in Benghazi where they are being held by the opposition forces who control this area,” it said.

The article was corrected for a factual error.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.