Three Dutch soldiers freed from Libya: defence ministry

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Three Dutch soldiers held by Libya after a botched attempt to free civilians have been released and left the country, a defence ministry spokesman in The Hague told AFP Friday.

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

The soldiers, two men and a woman, the crew of a navy helicopter, had flown out on a Greek military plane and were expected in Athens early morning, he said.

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

They 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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