Swiss army made covert mission in Libya: media

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A Swiss soldier entered Libya on a covert mission in 2009 to make plans to whisk across the border two Swiss citizens prevented from leaving the north African country, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Three such military plans were studied between November 2008 and May 2009, including one that may have involved the help of a Bedouin tribe, the Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag said, citing a confidential foreign ministry memo.

During planning for the third one, a member of a special forces reconnaissance unit, AAD-10, "entered Libyan soil" travelling "as a civilian, unarmed and with a valid visa," it added.

That "exploratory" mission, which never went further, came three months after another plan was called off because of intelligence indicating that Libya had got wind of a possible bid to free the Swiss duo, according to the newspaper.

Libyan authorities stopped businessmen Rachid Hamdani and Max Goeldi leaving their territory in a tit-for-tat action after the brief arrest in Switzerland of one of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's sons in July 2008.

In September 2009, they were taken by Libyan officials from the Swiss embassy in Tripoli, where they were staying, to a secure location where the duo were held until November.

They were later returned to the embassy and Hamdani was allowed to leave Libya in February, while Goeldi returned to Switzerland in June after serving a jail sentence.

The standoff sparked diplomatic tensions between the two countries and was only resolved with mediation by several European Union countries.

It also caused a political storm in Switzerland over the government's handling of the affair.

Neutral Switzerland's army has a purely defensive mission, only hesitantly stepping up low key participation in international peacekeeping operations on foreign soil over the past decade.

Media reports of secret military planning in 2008 to bring out the two Swiss citizens had emerged in June, but it was the first time that a report indicated that it went to the point of reaching Libyan territory.

A Swiss foreign ministry spokesman could not immediately comment on the latest report.

© 2010 AFP

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