Troops Believed to Be British, Are Violating UN Ban
So imagine the surprise of the six western soldiers in Misrata who were talking to rebel fighters only to discover that they were being broadcast worldwide on al-Jazeera. The six are believed to be British soldiers, and the front-line reporter said they may be helping to plan helicopter attacks.
Spotting the cameras, the six quickly scrambled from view, but the damage was done, and it could wind up being the second major embarrassment for Britain in this war. The first, of course, was when a group of SAS soldiers escorting a diplomat bumbled into the outskirts of Benghazi to meet with the rebels, and were immediately taken prisoner.
This case might be more serious internationally, however. The UN Security Council was very clear about “no ground troops” and these are most assuredly ground troops. Though NATO has had little problem in spreading the definition of a no-fly zone to fit their interests, the new revelation could do massive damage to the war’s already floundering international credibility.
From the British paper The Daily Mail–
An Arab television channel has broadcast pictures which it says show Western special forces on the ground in Libya.
Footage by the Al Jazeera television channel shows a group of six Western-looking men – described as ‘possibly British’ – talking to rebel fighters near the besieged port city of Misrata.
With their peaked caps, wraparound sunglasses and assault rifles, the group certainly appear different to the rag-tag rebel army battling Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.
possibly an intelligence officer
They are clearly visible in the Al Jazeera report by experienced British war correspondent Tony Birtley, and they hurry
away as soon as they realise they have been spotted by the camera crew.
Birtley’s front-line report from Dafniya, seven miles outside Misrata, shows five of the men are armed and wearing
informal sand-coloured clothes and cotton Arab scarves.
The sixth, apparently the most senior of the group, carries no visible weapon and wears a pink, short-sleeved shirt. There was speculation last night that he is an intelligence officer.
In his report, Birtley, an award-winning veteran of 20 wars who has previously worked for the BBC, ITN and Sky News, says: ‘Here, a group of armed foreigners, possibly British, are seen liaising with the fighters. It could be to facilitate forthcoming helicopter attacks.’
One possibility is that the men could be former British special forces, working privately. It has long been thought that Britain has boots on the ground in Libya. In March it was announced that Britain was sending advisers to the country to provide ‘logistical advice’ to rebels fighting in the east of the country.
The Mail has been told that ex-SAS mercenaries, funded by Arab states, could be used as forward air controllers for the rebels, calling in pinpoint air strikes on Gaddafi’s forces.
One source said: ‘We could indirectly employ former military people. A lot of the oil companies over there already have ex-special forces personnel working there.’
The Ministry of Defence spokesman said last night: ‘We do not have boots on the ground – any military activity undertaken by the UK in Libya is in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1973.’
The Al Jazeera report was aired as South African president Jacob Zuma said Gaddafi was ready for a truce to stop the fighting.
Mr Zuma, who met Gaddafi at the weekend, said he was ready to accept an African Union initiative for a ceasefire. He did not say Gaddafi was ready to step down, the central demand of the rebels.
Rebels’ spokesman Fathi Baja said Mr Zuma was in Tripoli to negotiate an exit strategy for Gaddafi, although Zuma’s office denies that.
Mr Baja said: ‘Gaddafi is in big trouble, the circle around him is deserting him.’
He said Gaddafi was a coward who will not fight to the death.