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NATO aiding Gaddafi hunt: British minister

(AFP)
Filed on August 25, 2011

LONDON — NATO is contributing intelligence and reconnaissance equipment to the search for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Britain’s Defence Minister Liam Fox said Thursday.

Fox refused however to confirm reports that Britain’s SAS special forces were working with the Libyan rebels to track down Gaddafi.

“I can confirm that NATO is providing intelligence and reconnaissance assets to the NTC (National Transitional Council) to help them track down Colonel Gaddafi and other remnants of the regime,” who fled before advancing rebel forces on Tuesday, he told Sky News.

The Ministry of Defence said Fox was referring to “various assets such as military planes.”

The Daily Telegraph newspaper, quoting defence sources, said SAS members were sent to Libya several weeks ago and played a key role in coordinating the battle for Tripoli.

With the majority of the capital now in rebel hands, the SAS had been ordered to switch their focus to hunting down Gaddafi, the Telegraph said.

They were wearing civilian clothes and armed with the same type of weapons used by the rebel forces, the paper said.

The Times newspaper reported that the SAS had been working with Qatari special forces.

While the Qataris were operating along the front lines with rebel fighters, the SAS had performed a more discreet role further back coordinating with NATO pilots, the Times said, quoting Ministry of Defence sources.

“We never comment about special forces,” Fox said in a separate interview with BBC radio.

Asked what role Britain was playing on the ground in Libya, Fox told the BBC: “We have always had some advisors to the NTC (as) we have made clear from the outset, helping them with communications, helping them with logistics, the chain of command and so on.

“And we would of course want to continue with those relationships.”

An AFP journalist discovered Thursday that French and British operatives have been working with Libyan rebels on their eastern front for several weeks.

The operatives are based at the rebel command for the eastern front in Zuwaytina, about 150 kilometres (93 miles) southwest of the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.





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