U.K. Defense Secretary Liam Fox confirmed that a small British diplomatic team is in eastern Libya to try to talk to rebels but declined to comment Sunday on a report that Special Forces soldiers are being held hostage by opponents of Muammar Gadhafi.
Fox said the government is in touch with the team in Benghazi but told BBC radio it would be inappropriate to comment further on an article in Britain's Sunday Times newspaper that alleged that soldiers were captured by rebel forces.
According to the article, a secret mission that aimed at putting British diplomats in touch with leading opponents of Libya's embattled leader went awry.
When pressed on whether the U.K. diplomatic team was in danger, Fox reiterated that the government is in contact with the diplomatic team.
"It is a very difficult situation to be able to understand in detail," he said. He continued, saying "there are a number of different opposition groups to Colonel Gadhafi in Libya who do seem relatively disparate."
The Sunday Times reported that up to eight special forces soldiers, armed but in plain clothes, were captured while escorting a junior British diplomat through rebel-held territory in eastern Libya.
According to the report, special forces intervention angered Libyan opposition figures who ordered the soldiers to be locked up on a military base.
Al Jazeera reported that four Britons are being held hostage by Libyan rebels.
This is not the first abduction of foreign nationals in Libya since protests began last month calling on leader Muammar Gadhafi to step down.
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Last Sunday, three Dutch marines were detained in Libya after they were captured by forces loyal to Muammar Gadhafi while trying to rescue two Europeans.
The men were captured by armed men after they had gone ashore at Sirte with a helicopter from a Dutch naval ship stationed off the coast of Libya to help with evacuations from the North African country, a Dutch Defense Ministry spokesman Otte Beeksma said.
The two Europeans the marines were trying to rescue, including one Dutch national, were handed over to the Dutch embassy in Tripoli on Wednesday and have now left the country.
Beeksma said the Dutch troops had not sought permission to enter Libyan air space, but added the citizens were rescued out of concern for a worsening security situation in Sirte, located 450 kilometres east of Tripoli.]
The marines have yet to be released.
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