Libyan TV accuses detained Dutch helicopter crew of spying
March 8, 2011 Leave a comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Just days after the capture of a British paramilitary and intelligence team in Libya, the country’s state television has accused three Dutch marines, captured by pro-government loyalists, of spying. The three-member team was detained by armed militias in the outskirts of Libya’s pro-government stronghold of Sirte, while using a Lynx helicopter, allegedly to evacuate two foreign nationals. The Libyans allowed the two unnamed evacuees, a Dutch engineer and another European Union citizen, to transfer to the embassy of the Netherlands in Tripoli, but arrested the crew of the helicopter, which includes a female pilot named Yvonne Niersman. Soon after news of the arrest emerged, the Dutch government said that the mission of the helicopter crew was to evacuate Dutch nationals from Libya. But on March 6, Libyan state television aired footage of the detainees, which showed a collection of items allegedly confiscated from them by the Libyan authorities. They include several weapons, ammunition, as well as a significant amount of United States currency. Moreover, it appears that the helicopter, which flew to Sirte from HNLMS Tromp, a Dutch frigate anchored just outside Libyan territorial waters, did not request permission to enter Libyan airspace. According to Libyan television, the mission of the helicopter crew was to transport intelligence officers in or out of Libya. But officials from the Netherlands Ministry of Defense say that they have received no official information about espionage charges against the detainees from the Libyan authorities. Members of the Dutch government appear to have been instructed to remain silent on the issue, but CNN reports that “intense talks” are taking place behind the scenes to release the three Dutch nationals.