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UK, Germany fly secret rescue missions into Libya

The German government sent two military aircraft to secretly evacuate more than 100 people from Libya on Saturday. The German government sent two military aircraft to secretly evacuate more than 100 people from Libya on Saturday. (Reuters)
By Kirsten Grieshaber
Associated Press / February 28, 2011

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BERLIN — British and German military planes swooped into Libya’s desert, rescuing hundreds of oil workers and civilians stranded at remote sites yesterday, as thousands of other foreigners remained stuck in Tripoli by bad weather and red tape.

The secret military missions into the turbulent North Africa country signal the readiness of Western nations to disregard Libya’s territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of citizens.

Three British Royal Air Force planes picked up 150 stranded civilians from multiple locations in the eastern Libyan desert before flying them to Malta yesterday, the British Defense Ministry said.

The rescue followed a similar secret commando mission Saturday by British Special Forces that got another 150 oil workers from the remote Libyan desert.

Germany said its air force had also evacuated more than 100 people from the desert during a secret military mission Saturday.

The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said yesterday that two German military planes landed on a private runway belonging to the Wintershall AG company and evacuated 22 Germans and 112 others and flew them to the island of Crete.

Another 18 German citizens were rescued by the British military in a separate military operation Saturday that targeted oil installations in the Libyan desert, Westerwelle said. He said around 100 other German citizens are still in Libya and the government was trying to get them out as quickly as possible.

On Saturday, two RAF Hercules planes brought stranded British citizens to Malta. The mission was risky because Britain sent the planes in without obtaining prior Libyan permission, Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

The UK frigate HMS Cumberland also returned to the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi from Malta to evacuate more people.

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