UK negotiating with Libyan rebels freeing its captured troops


Negotiations between senior British officials and senior opposition leaders in Libya were underway Sunday to secure the release of eight British special forces troops detained in eastern Libya by opposition forces, two sources close to the opposition told CNN.

In an interview with BBC, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox would not confirm that British troops were detained.

“We have a small British diplomatic team in Benghazi,” Fox said. “We are in touch with them. I can’t say more.”

He refused to elaborate when questioned repeatedly by the BBC’s Andrew Marr about the reported capture of the British troops.

The Sunday Times of London reported that the unit of “up to eight men” was being held after “a secret mission to put British diplomats in touch with leading opponents of Moammar Gadhafi ended in humiliation.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron said last week his government wanted to contact the opposition to find out who they were and what they wanted.

The newspaper cites unnamed “Libyan sources.”

It said opposition figures were angry about the “intervention” of special forces troops and “ordered the soldiers to be locked up on a military base.”

Defense Secretary Fox told the BBC there is no plan to use British land forces when asked if there is any chance of putting British troops on the ground in Libya.

Three Dutch Navy troops were held in Libya on February 27 during what the Dutch Ministry of Defense called an effort to evacuate a Dutch citizen from Libya.

Their helicopter was prevented from taking off by forces loyal to Gadfahi, the Netherlands said Thursday, four days after the event. It had kept the capture secret until then for security reasons, the ministry said.

“Intensive diplomatic talks” were underway as of Thursday, it said. There has been no further update since then. CNN