Libyan government accuses three Dutch helicopter crew of transporting spies

Monday, March 7, 2011

Three members of a Dutch navy helicopter crew that were detained by an armed unit loyal to the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, while they were attempting to evacuate two European nationals from Sirte last Sunday, have been accused Thursday of transporting spies. The Lynx helicopter had taken off from the Tromp, a Dutch naval warship.

According to the Libyan government, the crew, consisting of two men and a woman, entered Libyan airspace "in breach of international law." Libyan state TV says their mission was to evacuate or drop off spies. No official word has been sent from the Libyan government to the Dutch on spying charges.

"The aim of the helicopter (Lynx) mission was to drop or pick up spies on Libyan soil," said the State TV report as quoted by Monsters and Critics. The report added that there was "an international conspiracy" against Libya and Gaddafi.

The Dutch Ministry of Defense said the crew was conducting a "consular evacuation" when armed men detained them when they attempted to take-off from Sirte. Marloes Visser, a ministry spokesman, said, "We heard that they are being treated well." The ministry said there are "intensive diplomatic talks" between the two governments to negotiate the release of the crew. Very little information has been released due to the "interests of the safety of the crew," said Hans Hillen, the Dutch defense minister.

Libyan State TV aired footage, reportedly of the three crew members, along with weapons and American money, and a helicopter. Armed men can be seen around the helicopter, apparently celebrating its capture. The footage then shows the three crew members inside a building surrounded by plain clothed and uniformed personnel, drinking a beverage.

"At this moment they're being held by the Libyans, and we're doing everything in our power for a soon and safe release," added Visser. The three are the first known foreign troops detained by Gaddafi forces since the crackdown began.


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