The eight British special forces or ‘small team of diplomats’ as the British government are claiming, have been released by the anti-Gadaffi rebel forces in Benghazi. The HMS Cumberland quickly docked in Libya’s second biggest city and left within minutes of the SAS getting on board – apparently bound for Malta.
It is obvious the British government need to come up with a better cover story for this operation. If these people were in Libya to make contact with the leadership of the Gadaffi opposition, why were they captured? Why did the rebel forces tell foreign media they had them? Why didn’t the leadership in Benghazi release them and commence discussions with the British regarding how they can help? Why did they immediately leave after the British identified at least one of them as a diplomat sent there to open lines of communication with the rebels?
The British claim that this was a single ‘diplomat’ and his bodyguards. The Libyan rebels clearly didn’t buy this story as they were captured with very high-tech equipment, maps, etc.. The rebels also dispute that they were found in Benghazi – which is the obvious place they’d be if they did want to speak to the rebel leadership – but were instead found in a smaller town a significant distance away. Any diplomatic team could have easily been dropped off in Benghazi directly during a prior docking of the HMS Cumberland.
I think it is fair to assume that they were in Libya for another purpose. Perhaps to rescue or free someone or to conduct a covert operation. E.g. the single ‘diplomat’ could have been someone they were rescuing or an expert on whatever the subject of the operation was.
What is interesting is that the SAS allowed themselves to be captured at all. Perhaps they wanted to be taken to somewhere safe from Gadaffi’s forces. In a combat situation, 7 or 8 SAS would be extremely difficult to capture by even the best trained forces … which the rebels are not. My guess is, they carried out some operation in pro-Gadaffi territory, escaped East and gave themselves up to the rebels.
UPDATE: The 8 British forces were captured soon after being dropped by helicopter near the town of Suluq, over 50km away from Benghazi on Friday. They were taken back to Benghazi and handed over to the rebel leadership there. One of the 8 carried a diplomatic passport. The rebel leadership does not understand why the British didn’t just make direct contact – it seems even more clear they arrived for some other purpose … and that they didn’t get a chance to complete the mission. It is worth noting that where they were captured was over 200kms from any significant oil installation.
UPDATE 2: To make matters worse, pro-Gadaffi officials appear to have intercepted and recorded a called between the British ambassador and the rebels in Benghazi … and have broadcast him asking for the release of these special forces on state television. You can hear the recording over at the Telegraph. The Telegraph also say that the person with a diplomatic passport was MI6.
This story is very embarrassing for the British government indeed!