Arrest of British spy team in Libya reveals covert involvement

Benghazi, Libya

Benghazi, Libya

All eight members of the British military and intelligence team arrested in Libya on Friday have now been released and are en route to Malta. But what exactly is behind this news story, and what does it reveal about covert Western involvement in Libya? Those detained were part of group of around 20 Britons who landed by helicopter before sunrise on Friday, several miles from Benina International Airport, which is right outside Libya’s second-largest city Benghazi. Witnesses reported that the helicopter was met by another group on the ground. Soon after landing, the mysterious passengers split after being surrounded by heavily armed Libyan rebels; the latter managed to capture eight of them, which included six members of Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS, although some sources suggest they were from the Special Boat Service, or SBS), one British Army officer, and an operative of MI6, Britain’s foremost external intelligence agency. The Britons, all of whom were dressed in black coveralls, offered no resistance, telling their captors that they were unarmed. When searched, however, they were found to be carrying “arms, ammunition, explosives, maps and passports from at least four different nationalities”. On Sunday, Libya’s government-controlled state television aired an intercepted telephone exchange between Richard Northern, Britain’s Ambassador to Libya, and a spokesman of the rebel government in Benghazi. During the exchange, which is in the English language, Northern tells the spokesman that the team was attempting to establish contact with anti-government rebels in Benghazi. This would appear to confirm the suspicion of observers that the British team consisted of an intelligence officer (charmingly described by the British Foreign Office as “a diplomat”) and armed members of what is known as “The Increment”, a special forces unit tasked with escorting MI6 and MI5 officers in warzones. According to Abdul Hafiz Ghoqa, acting spokesman for the rebel government in Benghazi, Libyan opposition forces “refused to discuss anything with [the British detainees] due to the way they entered the country”. Reacting to the news, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said it would “neither confirm nor deny the story”. But British quality broadsheet The Independent said on Sunday that the mission was part of a broader program of clandestine support for Libya’s anti-government forces, “being prepared in London, and probably Washington”. British and American intelligence operatives are “preparing to go in[to Libya] and talk to the rebels about giving them a lot more than food parcels and tents”, said the paper.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

5 Responses to Arrest of British spy team in Libya reveals covert involvement

  1. Richard Tebboth says:

    James Bond: please call home

  2. charles lachman says:

    So, if a covert team entered the country by declaring themselves at the border, the rebels would have been OK with that? Until we know who we’re dealing with we should be extremely careful of our next step.

  3. tunde says:

    it’s all over.
    qathafi will crush the rebels a la assad pere at hama, then renegotiate his ‘goodwill’ with the euros (in $ of course), who will mediate with the US on behalf of his regime.
    it’s come full circle for mummar. qathafi dies as a counter-revolutionary and the US expose of the US-led’freedom agenda’ as being bogus will only strengthen the hand of radical elements in MENA. Obama’s Cairo speech will be viewed with riscible contempt with it’s soaring incitment to revolution.

  4. Joshua Engelman says:

    Because of the current situation in Japan, specifically in unit 3 of Fukushima Daiichi, there’s no possibility of garnering the political support necessary to start a NATO-enforced no fly zone, because DPRK has a really good opportunity to attack SK

  5. RUBENSHO says:


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