Dutch soldiers freed from Libya arrive in Greece

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A Greek military plane carrying three Dutch soldiers held by Libya after a botched attempt to free civilians arrived in Athens Friday, an AFP photographer said.

The plane touched down at Athens International Airport.

Earlier Friday, Dutch defence ministry spokesman Otte Beeksma said the soldiers, two men and a woman, had been released.

"The crew left Tripoli," said Beeksma, adding that they were "in good condition".

Libyan television announced Thursday afternoon that the three were to be freed, news that was confirmed by one of Kadhafi's sons, Seif al-Islam, shortly afterwards.

The three soldiers, the crew of a navy helicopter, were captured on February 27 in the northern coastal city of Sirte while trying to evacuate two civilians by navy helicopter with no backup on board.

The two civilians, a Dutch engineer and one other European, were also detained before being handed over to the Dutch embassy in Tripoli and sent home.

On Thursday, a Greek defence ministry source said the operation to release the soldiers was agreed after the deputy Greek foreign minister made a request to an envoy of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in Athens.

© 2011 AFP

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