19 SA men stranded in Libya
Erika Gibson, Beeld
Johannesburg - The fate of 19 South Africans stranded in Libya is uncertain after some were apparently killed and injured in the chaos surrounding the death of Muammar Gaddafi.
Desperate attempts were made over the weekend to find a pilot prepared to fetch the men in Libya.
Some of the men were believed to have been involved in attempting to help Gaddafi and his confidantes escape when Nato planes attacked their convoy. Gaddafi died shortly afterwards.
A logistical co-ordinator, who is now trying to fly the men out of Libya, gave assurances that these men were not involved in anything illegal. He said they were contracted by Nato, and that Nato and the UN would pay for the flight.
On Sunday, some of the flight operators said they refused to get involved, partly because of the flight ban still in existence in Libya.
A local security company, which mainly finds work for former policemen overseas, apparently has links with the men.
According to the co-ordinator, the men had been contracted by Nato over the past few weeks for certain tasks in Libya.
He also said he was unaware of the allegations that the men were involved in Gaddafi’s escape attempt. According to him, some of the men in the group of 50, for whom he was seeking a flight, were injured in the “execution of their duties” but had been “stabilised”.
They just wanted to come back to South Africa. One man, referred to simply as “Jaco” was in charge of the group and the planned evacuation was being organised from Cape Town.
Rapport reported on Sunday that a group of 19 South Africans scattered when Gaddafi’s convoy came under fire.
Danie Odendaal, referred to as a “spy”, said from a hospital (presumably in Libya) that the men had arrived in the country last Tuesday to take Gaddafi to Niger. They also met Gaddafi.
Some of the rebel forces who attacked the convoy apparently helped the South Africans get away. Odendaal said during the attack Gaddafi “screamed like a pig”.
Albie Laubscher, acting head of consular services at the department of international relations and co-operation, said on Sunday that his department had no knowledge of any South Africans’ involvement in Libya. The department had also not been approached to help with a medical evacuation.
Nato spokesperson Damien Arnand had not responded to a written enquiry by late on Sunday.