by Ian Silvera
An investigation by BBC’s Newsnight reveals that British special forces were deployed in Libya.
In a report broadcast last night, Mark Urban, Newsnight’s Diplomatic Editor, revealed that British special forces intervention began as early as February 2011. Libyan rebels had set up in Benghazi, and as the conflict became more heated, the British Government decided to send a rescue mission to Southern Libya.
On February 27, a ‘couple of dozen’ SBS marines carried out three flights to rescue one hundred and fifty foreign oil workers (twenty British) from Zillah, Libya. The special forces team then flew the foreign oil workers to Valletta, Malta.
By late February the British Government had decided to back the National Transition Council (NTC) and overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.
The next stage of British special forces involvement in Libya would involve the highly secretive ‘E-Squadron’. A unit jointly made up of the SAS, SBS with close links with Mi6. By early march six special forces operatives and two Mi6 agents travelled to Benghazi to meet rebel leaders.
The mission failed. The so-called ‘Diplomatic team’ was contained by Libyan farmers. After this public embarrassment, special forces were not involved in Libya for months.
In April 2011, plain clothed British intelligence and military officials were sent to Benghazi. These unarmed advisers were tasked with helping the rebels to organise themselves.
The UN resolution prohibited ground troops being deployed in Libya or a ‘boots on the ground’ policy.
However, Special Forces from France, Britain and Qatar left Qatar and entered Libya. Urban reports that twenty men from D Squadron 22-SAS operated in small teams within Brega and Misrata.
These Special Forces teams went on to guide-in air strikes from NATO planes and may have played an integral role in identifying Gaddafi and calling in the air strike that disabled his convoy.