March 7, 2014
Gaddafi spokesman says UK, French mercenaries caught
Muammar Gaddafi's loyalists said they had captured 17 mercenaries - some British and French - in what would amount to a severe blow to Libya's new rulers and their international backers.
The claim by the fugitive ousted leader's spokesman Moussa Ibrahim could not be verified, but it comes as the new authorities are facing stark reversals on the battlefield and in the political arena.
Nearly a month after Gaddafi was driven from power, his loyalist holdouts have beaten back repeated assaults by National Transitional Council forces at the town of Bani Walid and Gaddafi's home city of Sirte. NTC fighters have been sent fleeing in disarray after failing to storm Gaddafi bastions.
The NTC, still based in the eastern city of Benghazi, has faced questions about whether it can unify a country divided on tribal and local lines. A long-promised attempt to set up a more inclusive interim government fell apart overnight.
"A group was captured in Bani Walid consisting of 17 mercenaries. They are technical experts and they include consultative officers," Gaddafi spokesman Ibrahim said on Syria-based Arrai television, which has backed Gaddafi.
"Most of them are French, one of them is from an Asian country that has not been identified, two English people and one Qatari."
The French foreign ministry said it had no information about the report. The British foreign ministry said it was aware of media reports about the capture of mercenaries but was not able to substantiate them. Qatari officials were not immediately available for comment.
NATO, which is staging air strikes on Gaddafi loyalist positions, says it has no troops on the ground in Libya.
However, Western nations have sent special forces in the past, and media have reported that private security firms have aided anti-Gaddafi forces in training, targeting and with leadership. Gulf Arab states have also sent trainers and arms.