Rebels hold British special forces in Libya: report
A British special forces unit was being held by rebels in eastern Libya following a bungled mission to put a diplomat in touch with them, The Sunday Times newspaper said, citing sources.
The broadsheet said the soldiers, thought to be up to eight men, were captured along with the junior diplomat they were escorting through the rebel-held east.
"We can neither confirm nor deny the report," a Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP.
The Ministry of Defence in London was not immediately available for comment, but routinely does not discuss special forces operations.
The uninvited appearance of special forces alongside the diplomat "angered Libyan opposition figures who ordered the soldiers to be locked up on a military base," the weekly said.
Opponents of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi "fear he could use any evidence of Western military interference to rally patriotic support for his regime," it said.
The newspaper said that according to Libyan sources, the soldiers were taken by rebels to Libya's second city Benghazi, held by the opposition, and hauled up before a senior figure.
The Sunday Times said a British source, who confirmed the men had been detained, said the diplomat they were protecting had wanted to make contact with the rebels.
It cited a source close to the opposition leadership as saying rebel officials were worried that Libyan people might think from the escort party that "foreign troops have started to interfere by landing in Libya".
British service personnel have already been involved in the rescue of British nationals working on oil installations in remote desert camps.
Prime Minister David Cameron last week said Tuesday that Western countries should be stepping up contact with the Libyan opposition to gain a greater understanding of their intentions.
Foreign Secretary William Hague held telephone talks Wednesday with General Abdel Fatah Yunis, the former Libyan interior minister who defected, about the situation on the ground.
© 2011 AFP