Libyan rebels hold British SAS troops
A BRITISH special forces unit ( SAS) and a junior diplomat were being held by rebels in eastern Libya following a bungled mission to put the envoy in touch with them, The Sunday Times newspaper said.
Citing sources, it said the SAS soldiers, thought to be up to eight men, were captured along with the diplomat they were escorting through the rebel-held east.
‘‘ We can neither confirm nor deny the report,’’ a Foreign Office spokes -woman said.
The Ministry of Defence ( MoD) said: ‘‘ We neither confirm nor deny the story and we do not comment on the special forces.’’
The uninvited appearance of the SAS alongside the diplomat ‘‘ angered Libyan opposition figures who ordered the soldiers to be locked up in a military base’’, the weekly said.
Opponents of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi ‘‘ fear he could use any evidence of Western military interference to rally patriotic support for his regime,’’ it said. The newspaper said that according to Libyan sources, the SAS soldiers were taken by rebels to Libya’s second city Benghazi, held by the opposition, and hauled up before a senior figure.
The Sunday Times said a British source, who confirmed the men had been detained, said the diplomat they were protecting had wanted to make contact with the rebels.
It cited a source close to the opposition leadership as saying rebel officials were worried that Libyan people might think from the escort party that ‘‘ foreign troops have started to interfere by landing in Libya’’.
British service personnel have already been involved in the rescue of British nationals working on oil installations in remote desert camps. Prime Minister David Cameron last week said that Western countries should be stepping up contact with the Libyan opposition to gain a greater understanding of their intentions. Foreign Secretary William Hague talked by phone with General Abdel Fatah Yunis, the former Libyan interior minister who defected, about the situation on the ground.
The Ministry of Defence said on Saturday about 200 troops had been placed on standby to help with evacuation and humanitarian operations in Libya.
The troops from the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, are ready for deployment at 24 hours’ notice, a spokeswoman said.
DANGER: UK officials silent over a reports a SAS unit and a junior diplomat were being held by rebels in eastern Libya following a bungled mission