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Sunday 21 December  
News Desk's picture
Sirte, Libya
Sirte, Libya

Dutch helicopter crew taken prisoner in Libya

Published on : 3 March 2011 - 11:33am | By RNW News Desk (photo: Defence Ministry)
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Three Dutch soldiers have been captured by pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya following a failed evacuation operation. A helicopter flew from the Dutch frigate HNLMS Tromp to the Libyan city of Sirte to pick up two evacuees, but when it landed the three-man crew was seized by an armed group loyal to the Libyan government.

The incident occurred towards the end of the day on Sunday but was kept quiet until now for security reasons.

The two would-be evacuees, a Dutchman and another European of unspecified nationality, were handed over to the Dutch embassy and have since left the country. The Dutchman, who works for Dutch engineering firm Royal Haskoning, arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday evening.

Parliament has asked the cabinet for clarification about the secret operation. However, a majority voted against an emergency debate as requested by Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, most parties felt a letter would suffice.

Dutch Defence Ministry spokesman Otto Beeksma told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that intensive diplomatic negotiations are still taking place to free the three soldiers. He added that they are doing well under the circumstances. There is contact between the ministry and the soldiers and their families are being kept up to date with developments.

Top priority
Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the situation 'terrible'. He says a deliberate decision was made to keep the capture of the soldiers secret so as to allow talks with the Libyans to take place quietly.

"Our absolute top priority is that these three soldiers reach safety. They were deployed at high personal risk. The least we can do is to do everything to ensure that if people get in trouble that they are brought to safety again."

Extra risk
Military historian Christ Klep says he was surprised by the Dutch action. The city of Sirte - the birthplace of Muammar Gaddafi - is still in the hands of the regime and not really safe for an evacuation attempt. It is also difficult to ensure the safety of the small Lynx helicopter which was used.

"It seems to suggest it may have been a diplomat, for instance, or somebody of special importance anyway. I would have thought you would want to avoid stirring things up in Libya and not attract attention to yourself. There must have been a reason they were prepared to take this extra risk. And it was a real risk because it's essentially impossible to defend one of those Lynx helicopters."

On the other hand, he can imagine the reasoning behind the choice - so as not to attract too much attention.

"Probably they had contacted the evacuees and it looked as though things were quiet enough at the time to carry out a discreet action."




Anonymous 6 March 2011 - 1:34am / libya

what a cheek
what r those soliders doing in libya .
this is an intemedation and hope to get punched because we do not need any ties with you guys

Anonymous 10 March 2011 - 12:08pm

Dear Sir,Madam.
With the upmost respect to you and your people I can see why you would initially feel angry. My heart goes out to your people caught up in the events that have taken place during the past few weeks.
The dutch soldiers had been instructed to collect one of their own citizens an engineer and a Swedish citizen as they were unable to leave your Country without assistance. I am sure you were unaware of this when the events first unfolded and I sincerely hope that they are allowed to return to their ship as quickly as possible. Their sole purpose was and is to help foreign nationals to return peacefully to their own countries. The world is not against you and I pray that your troubles will soon be over with the minimun loss of life and suffering.

Maarten Zand 4 March 2011 - 12:17am / NL

Uit je reactie blijkt dat je niet weet waarom er een helicopter is ingezet.

Beertje raar en kortzuchtig om dan de actie waarbij mensen hun leven in de waagschaal zetten af te doen als "macho".

Robert G Coenen 3 March 2011 - 1:40pm / Malta

Het had ook gewoon zonder "Macho" met de Ferry gedaan kunnen worden!!!!
A Maltese catamaran returned this morning from the Libyan port city of Sirte, with the crew reporting the situation calm, despite reports of fighting nearby. The Maria Dolores evacuated 599 Korean workers employed by Hyundai. Another catamaran, the San Gwann, is currently in Sirte to pick up another 200. The workers are being accommodated at the Intercontinental for two days pending their departure home. A spokesman for Virtu Ferries said the catamarans have so far made eight round trips to Libya, mostly to Tripoli but also to Misurata. Most of the trips were chartered. There are no immediate plans for more trips, but the situation could change at any minute, the spokesman said. Another 599 evacuees from Libya arrived in Malta this morning on Virtu Ferries' catamaran Maria Dolores.

Maarten Zand 4 March 2011 - 12:20am / NL

Uit je reactie blijkt dat je niet weet waarom er een helicopter is ingezet.

Beertje raar en kortzichtig om dan de actie waarbij mensen hun leven in de waagschaal zetten af te doen als "macho".

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