British team ‘in Libya for talks with rebels’
BENGHAZI, Libya — A British delegation arrived in the Libyan insurgency bastion of Benghazi late Saturday, nearly a month after a special forces team was seized in a bungled mission to contact the rebels.
A rebel spokesman, Mustafa Gheriani, on Sunday confirmed the presence of the British group in the country’s second largest city, but was tight-lipped on the reason for the visit.
“It’s a delegation,” said Gheriani, spokesman for Transitional National Council, adding however that the British delegation was meeting with the TNC on Sunday.
“It’s a secret. It’s a matter of respect,” the spokesman added, indicating that it was up to London to provide details of the trip.
A French ambassador and a US envoy were also reported to have been in the rebel stronghold.
On March 7, Foreign Secretary William Hague said in London the seizing of a British special forces team in a botched attempt to contact Libyan rebels was because of a “serious misunderstanding”.
The team, reportedly made up of six soldiers from the elite Special Air Service (SAS) and two diplomats, flew into Libya by helicopter and made their way to 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.
The mission angered Libyan opposition leaders who denied they had asked for any help, and the team later left for Malta on a British warship.