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Were Those SAS Troops Really On A Diplomatic Mission?

So, was that British SAS team captured and released by Libyan rebels over the weekend really on a diplomatic mission, as the U.K. government claimed?

The Guardian newspaper just published this report saying the team was escorting MI6 officers. What they were going to do, isn’t quite clear. Whatever their mission, the sudden appearance of armed foreigners in rebel held territory quite logically, freaked the rebels out:

Officials in Benghazi’s organising committee, which is trying to organise civilian and military affairs, criticised the British team’s decision to make a clandestine entry to the country, claiming it had fueled doubts about their intentions.

“We don’t want new enemies, but this is no way to make contact,” said a senior member of the committee, Essam Gheriani.

“Dropping in in the dead of night with espionage equipment, recording devices, multiple weapons and passports. In Dubai the Israelis used British passports to kill that man, [Hamas commander Mahmoud] al-Mabhouh. It’s a matter of verification. At a time of revolution, suspicion is greater than trust.”

A recording of a telephone conversation between the UK’s ambassador to Libya, Richard Northern, and a senior rebel leader has been leaked by Libyan authorities. Northern suggested the SAS team had been detained due to a “misunderstanding”.

The rebel leader responded: “They made a big mistake, coming with a helicopter in an open area. I didn’t know how they were coming.”

The last thing the rebels want is to have their legitimacy threatened by any event that aids Gadhafi’s claims that the rebellion is fueled by western operatives.

Apparently, the troops landed via helicopter at a farm where a secret MI6 operator named “Tom” worked as an administrator. It seems “Tom” didn’t tell the farm’s security about his friends from back home that would be staying with them:

One of the guards who arrested the Britons described their clandestine arrival and the mysterious Briton who had worked at the farm. “His name was Tom and he worked in administration,” said the guard, named Rafah. “At 3am on Thursday he said he was going to Benghazi and drove out the gate.”

A second foreign national drove another car. The guards heard helicopters landing in a nearby field and soon after, both cars returned to the farm, driving through a gate and into a large gravel staging yard, near Tom’s living quarters.

“They were taking large bags into the house and we walked over to them,” said Rafah. “We fired one shot into the air and told them they were under arrest.”

Hey, at least the SAS team got a good breakfast the next day:

Rafah and several other guards said they cooked the Britons eggs for breakfast and gave them bread and coffee. Soon after, the director Mr al-Bira arrived and phoned the rebel leadership asking what to do with the men. He was told to bring them to Benghazi.Rebel leaders said they were anxious to put the rocky start to the liaison behind them and secure supply lines for their forces, which they claim are ill-equipped to fight Gaddafi loyalists in any protracted campaign.

This last paragraph is key. It’s just one more sign that western forces are indeed working to help the rebels. Maybe not with air strikes and direct weapons shipments, yet. Still, they’re in-country and will continue to enter the country:

“We intend, in consultation with the opposition, to send a further team to strengthen our dialogue in due course,” the [U.K.] foreign secretary added. “This diplomatic effort is part of the UK’s wider work on Libya, including our ongoing humanitarian support.

 

 

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

TLAM Strike March 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

I think they need to send The Regiment on more diplomatic missions. To paraphrase Scotty from Star Trek: The best diplomat I know is a fully loaded M16.

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Zap March 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm

come on now , MI6 and the CIA have been working with NFSL from the very start , it's their operation , but for some reason folk who comment on this blog don't want to believe it , but they happily believe the Libyan airforce was bombing civilians in the hundreds who were on democracy demonstration because FOX NEWS and right wing politicians told them , those amazing bombs that don't leave any documented injuries , don't leave and bomb craters and don't even break windows in the buildings in the streets where they were reported to have been dropped !
Forget the fact russia has spy satellites too and can clearly see for themselves it was a fake story and have gone on record stating that and calling on the UK & US to present their evidence .

But you know if its on the BBC and FOX then it must have been true right ?
and who cares anyway because it only adds fuel to a armed uprising which hopefully will turn into a civil war ,and its the perfect way of wining public support for what we want to do , now we can demand a NO FLY ZONE , we can tell the world that we need to enforce a NO FLY ZONE with a military intervention , it shouldn't be a problem with our new found "public support" , and within a couple of weeks the NFSL will have a NATO airforce to support it , And of course we will have to have a few hundred ( thousand tops ) SF guys on the ground working with the rebels to direct air-strikes just to make sure we can make it as safe as we can for civilians , but we are not really taking sides or getting involved in a civil war , we are only involved for humanitarian reasons . and in a month or 2 gaddafi will be toast and nobody will care too much about how it happened , and all the original stories put about by the press and politicians about attacks and bombing on democracy demonstrators at the start will all be forgotten . ( sarcasm warning )

but oops look 8 MI6 and SAS guys got cough . those must be the once that aren't there , and sure there aren't any-more .
problem is , as should be obvious by the fact they got arrested , in a civil war there are many sides and many factions , all with their own agendas and objectives , and the only truth they should remember from the past is that opposition groups ( like NFSL ) that spend more time in London and Washington than Libya never live up to promises or deliver what they say they can .

Breaking Pandora box in eastern Libya where there are shit loads of Islamic extremists and now quite a few empty armouries , might not turn out to be the best idea somebody ever had .

(yess go ahead vote me down )

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Blue1 March 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Oblat, is that you?

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Joe Schmoe March 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm

You forgot about the UFO's in Area 51…

Where do these guys come from. How do they find this site?

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William C. March 7, 2011 at 10:28 pm

All orchestrated by the aliens that killed JFK no doubt.

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blight March 8, 2011 at 10:46 am

So which parts are doublethink? Just the airstrike parts or the parts where Libya's military is being ordered to quash rebels? Pilots wouldn't defect to Malta for nothing, especially carrying military hardware and a fairly obvious bomb-load meant for ground targets. Only the CIA would be sloppy enough to arrange for defecting pilots claiming to be refusing orders to carry out airstrikes, but the planes would only be carrying air to air missiles…

I'd love to see this "Russian spysat footage", which would also have the controversy of being difficult to explicitly date. I guess you could do it based on construction patterns, but that's not very accurate.

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Zap March 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm

this is a good article if anyone is interested
http://financialsense.com/contributors/william-en…

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Maxtrue March 7, 2011 at 9:14 pm

good for what? TP?

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J Weich March 8, 2011 at 1:04 am

Good for anyone that has a solid understanding of the perverted history of US foreign policy. Not good apparently for the likes of you; the sadly naive and gullible, who truly believe everything they are told by the Western media.

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STemplar March 8, 2011 at 3:03 am

So what? We have a hand in trying to shape events on the ground in the single most important economic region on the planet? So we should so what? Take a hands off approach to revolution? I think Carter did that and we ended up with Iran, no thanks.

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blight March 8, 2011 at 8:52 am

If supporting a tinpot banana republic dictator's death squads in El Salvador makes you sleep better at night, so be it. At one point we were everywhere the Soviets were in the mere interest of "area denial", even if it made no geopolitical sense.

With Iran, the revolution was us supporting a dictator who had very little mandate with the people. What were we going to do, drop cluster bombs on Iranians? Even his own forces refused to fight the protestors. At that point, you would end up invading your puppet to fight an army equipped by you protecting the people in the name of upholding puppet. After the mess of Diem in Vietnam, I suspect people in the States got weary of the king-making business. It is invariably quite messy…

wetsu March 8, 2011 at 2:30 am

I hate to be the one to break the news—-the photo was taken in WW2 and is of some of the original members of the SAS!

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Dev March 8, 2011 at 2:55 am

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

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Jeff Fraser March 8, 2011 at 6:24 pm

That's what they want you to think…

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Ben March 8, 2011 at 6:38 am

Only you could be so bold. The European Union will not sit still for this. When they hear you've attacked a diplomatic—
Don't act so surprised, Major. You weren't on any mercy mission this time. Several transmissions were beamed to this squad by Rebel spies. I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you.
I don't know what you're talking about. I am a member of the European Union on a diplomatic mission to Libya-
You are a part of the Rebel Alliance and a Foreigner! [to the Militia] Take him away! [SAS is taken away]

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Guest March 8, 2011 at 6:53 am

Sweet reference, man!

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Blue1 March 8, 2011 at 3:12 pm

LOL! Gold medal to you sir, close the discussion, it’s over

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JSCS March 8, 2011 at 8:26 am

Hats off to those original SAS fellows depicted in that shot. No easy job theirs…….

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Scorch March 8, 2011 at 9:09 am

SAS Soldier "I don't know what you're talking about. We were sent on a diplomatic mission to Tripoli."
Rebel: "You are a spy for the coalition alliance and a traitor! Take him away!"

Couldnt resist trying to make a Star Wars reference

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bbrandreth March 8, 2011 at 11:58 am

There is an interesting take on it here http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/guywalters/1000…

Highlights:
"In this instance, MI6 seemed to be well-prepared, and had an agent called ‘Tom’ stationed some 20 miles from Benghazi for nearly six months, ostensibly working as an administrator at the Al-Khadra Farm Company. During his stay, Tom had evidently made contact with those hostile to the Gaddafi regime, and it was those who the MI6 and SAS team were coming to visit."

"When the British arrived at Al-Khadra early on Thursday morning, the helicopter appeared to cause alarm, and one of the Libyans present at the farm fired a shot into the air and the team were told it was under arrest. According to the BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner, it is seems that “the people who surrounded them were the wrong rebels – a different group from those people, a sub-set”, and this would explain the confusion."

"In short, the the whole ‘fiasco’ was nothing more than a misunderstanding. The biggest error was made by the Libyans who arrested the team, but of course it is diplomatically impossible for William Hague to say as much.
Let’s not forget, the rebels still want our help, and if we’re going to do it properly, we need people on the ground, and yes, we need the SAS, MI6 and helicopters. We cannot, it should be stressed, always do these things through the front door."

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SJE March 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm

SAS? No, we're just jolly English tourists coming to visit the sights. Its awfully cold and wintry in England right now so we wanted to come South for a bit of a break.

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jake March 8, 2011 at 9:43 pm

The dude closest to the camera looks like one mean SOB. Would not want to see him pissed off.

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STemplar March 8, 2011 at 12:43 pm

As opposed to what? Doing nothing? Get over the idealism, you'll probably sleep better. What could we have done in Iran, something more than nothing probably, because no one can honestly say the current regime is nothing but a geo political pain in the @#$. I think we need to be a little more discriminating and we need to be clear with the people we support they have to agree to certain behaviors and not engage in others. The notion we just stay home and wrap ourselves in a nice warm blanket of idealistic values and that doesn't come back and haunt us down the road is folly.

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mike j March 8, 2011 at 5:07 pm

So when we engaged in activity like overthrowing Mosaddegh and sticking the Shah back in power… how does that fit in your picture? We were up to our neck in responsibility for what happened to Iran. Seriously, that's a terrible example to use for justifying intervention; it might be as good a counter-example as you'll find.

btw, "something more than nothing probably" -You ought to find out who Gen. Robert Huyser was, and maybe dig into that story a little deeper than the "official" one.

And what's really funny about this, in the coup which brought Qaddafi to power, the US probably could have knocked it over within a few hours by staging out of Wheelus AFB, but we chose to do nothing. Pick your examples better.

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