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Dutch government: Libya knew of secret evacuation

Dutch government: Libya knew of secret evacuation

Libyan forces were tipped off about a covert plan by Dutch marines to evacuate two civilians from Sirte last month, allowing them to capture a navy helicopter and its crew, the government said in a letter to parliament.
Opposition lawmakers called the rescue flight a "comedy of errors" and called Tuesday for Prime Minister Mark Rutte along with his defense and foreign ministers to appear in Parliament next week to answer questions about the botched mission.
Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi captured three marines and their Lynx helicopter in a stronghold of the Libyan leader's supporters Feb 27. The marines were released unharmed after 12 days.
The prior knowledge meant that "the element of surprise was lost," Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal and Defense Minister Hans Hillen wrote in a letter to Parliament released late Monday night that detailed the mission for the first time.
The letter revealed that one of the three marines was assaulted by Libyan forces shortly after his capture, but did not give any further details, saying only "physical violence was used during his first interrogation."
At a press conference on their return to the Netherlands, the three marines _ one woman and two men _ said they were treated well by their Libyan captors. At the time of the press conference, the marine who was assaulted had not yet told his fellow crew members about his ordeal.
The marine "only spoke about it once he had left Libya because he did not want to scare his fellow crew members," Defense Ministry spokesman Otte Beeksma said.
The four-page letter said the Lynx flew from Dutch navy ship HMS Tromp after the Dutch worker's employer urged authorities to rescue him as foreigners scrambled to flee Libya amid escalating violence between rebels and Gadhafi's forces.
The worker and a Swedish woman who also had heard about the rescue flight were captured and released the following day.
Dutch authorities did not seek Libyan permission for the flight because their ambassador in Tripoli told them all Libyan government offices that could deal with such a request were closed. The government later apologized to Libya for the breach of its sovereignty.
The flight was supposed to be top secret but as soon as the helicopter landed outside Sirte it was surrounded by 30 armed men.
"The speed with which (the Dutch worker) and crew were surrounded and overpowered leads us to believe the Libyan regime had prior knowledge of the operation," the ministers wrote. "How they got this knowledge cannot be established with certainty."
Frans Timmermans, a lawmaker with the opposition Labor Party, said the government still had some explaining to do next week in Parliament.
"Reading the letter, it is a comedy of errors," he told national broadcaster NOS. "You can almost laugh about it now because it ended OK, but the Cabinet escaped more by luck than good judgment."


Updated : 2021-04-18 14:55 GMT+08:00