UK scrambles to explain SAS Libya blunder

2011-03-07 15:00

London - The British government was left red-faced on Monday after a botched attempt by special forces to make contact with opposition forces in Libya ended in the team being seized by rebels.

The team, reportedly made up of six soldiers from the elite SAS and two diplomats, flew into Libya by helicopter and made their way to the opposition-held city of Benghazi.

But they were rounded up by lightly armed rebels soon after they arrived, reports said.

The diplomats are believed to have been officers from Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence service whose mission was to contact rebel leaders and open the way for a delegation.

But they succeeded only in angering Libyan opposition leaders who denied they had asked for any help and by late Sunday they had been packed off to Malta on a British naval ship.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague was to make a statement to lawmakers on the operation later on Monday.

Another team to be sent

After the government initially kept silent on the affair, Hague confirmed on Sunday that "a small diplomatic team has been in Benghazi" and said their intention had been "to initiate contacts with the opposition".

"They experienced difficulties, which have now been satisfactorily resolved. They have now left Libya," he added.

However, Hague insisted that Britain intended to send "a further team to strengthen our dialogue in due course" although he stressed this would be done in co-operation with the Libyan opposition.

In Benghazi itself, an opposition spokesperson said the rebels had refused to talk to the delegation because they had entered the country without prior permission.

"We do not know the nature of their mission. We refused to discuss anything with them due to the way they entered the country," spokesperson Abdul Hafiz Ghoqa told reporters in the rebel stronghold.

The Britons left Benghazi for Malta on board the Royal Navy frigate HMS Cumberland, reports said.

Propaganda coup for Gaddafi

The bungled operation raised eyebrows because Britain prides itself on the competence of the SAS, which is believed to play a major role in the conflict in Afghanistan as well as in past wars in Iraq and the Falklands.

The Times asked why the SAS had felt it necessary to carry out such a cloak-and-dagger operation when it would have been possible for the team to simply drive into Benghazi.

"Nabbed while escorting a junior diplomat in a city that would have welcomed them... this was not their finest hour," the newspaper said.

The Daily Telegraph, traditionally a pro-armed forces newspaper, said the mission was a "blunder" which had handed a propaganda coup to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Britain's government has made a faltering start to its handling of the Libyan crisis.

Prime Minister David Cameron banged the drum for the imposition of a no-fly zone last week, only to backtrack rapidly to say it was no more than "contingency planning".

And in the first days of the revolt, Hague drew fire for suggesting that Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela.

  • brokennews - 2011-03-07 15:04

    Who dares, loses

      alsitrader - 2011-03-07 15:34

      How did they lose , they are back safe and all accounted for , and brought back with the diplomat "spook"

      alsitrader - 2011-03-07 15:34

      How did they lose , they are back safe and all accounted for , and brought back with the diplomat "spook"

      brokennews - 2011-03-07 15:54

      dude, they got captured. Special forces..

      Ingwe - 2011-03-07 16:43

      brokennews I can assure you if these guys wanted to fight their way out of the situation they would have and there would only have been one winner, 22 SAS. But that would have been counter productive.

      Logs01 - 2011-03-07 17:13

      "MI6 foreign intelligence service"? Mmmmmm, Smaak my James Bond het op sy moer gekry!!

      rodneykdc - 2011-03-07 20:19

      That is what happens when Johnny English is in charge!!!

  • Bloodbane - 2011-03-07 15:20

    they start by anouncing that they are sending over SAS and MI6 and then this happens. who ever planned this should be fired.... really really not profesional!

      SuperCal - 2011-03-07 15:49

      agree 100%...this is what happens when accountants take over the intelligence services and start cutting corners to cut costs....bad form

  • Goose - 2011-03-07 15:24

    I suppose once again, "an African solution for an African problem?" If they don't want help then that is good! Let them sort their own country out. It is never a good thing when foreigners get involved and must die to fix other peoples problems.

      lakhan7 - 2011-03-07 15:37

      well said goose. In SA, we have MI7 ...much better trained - and with moral Morals then the Queens failures. ( PS: They also wanted to overthrow the ZIM government - unethical. )

      lakhan7 - 2011-03-07 15:37

      well said goose. In SA, we have MI7 ...much better trained - and with moral Morals then the Queens failures. ( PS: They also wanted to overthrow the ZIM government - unethical. )

  • lakhan7 - 2011-03-07 15:39

    SA should send troops to "help" with Britains IRA problems... etc.

      Ingwe - 2011-03-07 16:46

      LOL how would they get there, on SAA?

  • lenand40 - 2011-03-07 15:39

    Easier to be in the opposition benches than being in government.

  • Robbie - 2011-03-07 16:09

    That is what happens when you send soldiers in to be diplomats...

  • WillF - 2011-03-07 16:14

    Rubarb...rubarb silly poms...

  • JustinD - 2011-03-07 16:17

    Im tempted to say fu*&ing dummies but at least they are trying something unlike our spineless leaders

  • amos - 2011-03-07 16:25

    The Libyans should should have executed the bastards for not minding their[british] business.

      Ingwe - 2011-03-07 16:41

      Amos you really are a bitter and twisted person

  • Ripper SA - 2011-03-07 17:25

    It sounds to me like they wanted to get caught... If you look this way, what happens the other way...

  • Jaimo - 2011-03-07 18:38

    When is the world going to wake-up to the fact that the British blunder everything! ie: The so called 'palestinians' are a direct British blunder. They always then slip out and blame-shift with a self righteous attitude. In the palestinian case the blame is continualy put on Israel. What slime-balls!

      alsitrader - 2011-03-08 08:18

      They most probably learnt it from the ANC everything in this country is blamed on the imperialist ......You obviously entitled to your opinion , but remember your comments when we all come crashing down , in civil war , and go crying to the UK (west) for help !

  • Dieter - 2011-03-07 18:55

    Dont remember Anyone sending special forces to Zimbabwe. Must be due to a lack of oil! The US. and UK. interest in the struggle of the Libyan People is such a farce. It would not surprize me if they got the whole thing started.

      alsitrader - 2011-03-08 08:22

      Please explain why the West should help Zim , when not one of its neighbours is even willing to stand up to Mugabe ! Why must the west risk their soldiers lives to protect the spineless , corrupt. The difference with Libya is their people have made a stand , not just waiting for a handout !!

  • Matt - 2011-03-07 20:50

    Guys wearing slops and sandals captured the UK special forces - how embarrassing!

  • Matt - 2011-03-07 20:53

    The world must watch out for the UK along with the USA - they just want war. The will make any excuse to rob a nation. Could Russia and China please stand up!

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