The British media has reported that an eight-man SAS team and a junior diplomat were being held by rebels in eastern Libya after what The Daily Mail called “a bungled mission to put the envoy in touch with them.
Reports said that the elite unit has been escorting the diplomat, “who had intended to pave the way for a more senior British official to establish diplomatic relations with rebel forces” through rebel-held territory when they were captured.
But, The Sunday Times reported, the appearance of SAS soldiers alongside the diplomat ‘angered Libyan opposition figures who ordered the soldiers to be locked up in a military base’. The British Ministry of Defence said it would neither confirm nor deny the story, and it did not comment on the special forces.
The diplomat and his armed SAS escorts, who were in civilian clothes, were locked up inside a military base in Benghazi, reports said.
One of the opposition leaders is said to have warned the British government that it should recognise the rebels as Libya’s legitimate leaders before attempting to open negotiations.
The press quoted sources admitting that there was huge embarrassment in Whitehall that the SAS mission had backfired., but there was confidence the team and the diplomat would soon be released unharmed.
Meanwhile, the British Ministry of Defence MOD was reported saying that around 200 troops from the Black Watch 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland had been placed on standby to help with the evacuation and humanitarian operations in Libya.