Eight SAS soldiers have been detained by rebels in Libya, according to Sky News sources. Rebel sources told Sky that the group are being held in Libya’s second city in Benghazi.
The Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office have neither confirmed or denied the report but Defence Secretary Liam Fox has confirmed that a “small diplomatic team” is in Benghazi to talk to Libyan rebels.
Mr Fox declined to comment on reports the SAS unit guarding the team had been detained.
“We are in touch with them but it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on that” he told the Andrew Marr show.
According to the Sky sources the eight SAS members were among a group of around 22 soldiers and one diplomat believed to have been dropped by helicopter in an area south of the Benghazi.
Only eight were detained and it is expected that they will be released either today or tomorrow.
There is speculation it could be an attempt by the rebels to ensure the interim Libyan council receives diplomatic recognition.
The SAS’s intervention has allegedly angered Libyan opposition figures who ordered the armed and plain-clothes soldiers to be locked up on a military base.
Opponents of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s fear he could use any evidence of western military interference to rally patriotic support for his regime.
Sky News defence correspondent Niall Paterson said: “The feeling in London is that the rebels who have taken the SAS members and junior diplomat are simply making a point.
“There is no feeling this will end badly.”
Libyan warplanes are reported to have launched airstrikes on rebels advancing on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s stronghold of Sirte 350 miles (560km) west of Benghazi.
Source: Sky News