Britain deployed 90 soldiers to Libya to advise Libyan rebels plotting the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, United Kingdom defence secretary Philip Hammond has revealed.
The British Forces Broadcasting Service said that the troops were among 1 200 UK service personnel sent abroad as part of Operation Ellamy, the Ministry of Defence’s codename for the Libya conflict.
Previously, ministers claimed “a handful” of British Army officers would be sent to “advise” rebel commanders. Hammond revealed the latest figures in a written Parliamentary answer to Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn.
In April London said it would send a dozen officers to Libya to improve the rebels organisation and communications, but would not arm the rebels or train them how to fight. The United Nations resolution authorising force to protect civilians in Libya bans an occupation force in the North African country.
On Monday the Israeli intelligence news service DEBKA quoted US sources as saying that both the United States and United Kingdom had boots on the ground in Libya.
In March a team of six British SAS special forces was captured in eastern Libya after a secret diplomatic mission to make contact with opposition leaders backfired. After being held for two days by rebels, they left Libya.
Hammond said 350 Royal Navy seamen and 700 RAF airmen were sent overseas as part of Ellamy.
Officially, the British contribution to enforcing United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 has involved bombing raids on military targets, and firing missiles from ships and submarines off the Libyan coast, as well as advising rebel leaders.
Hammond said the numbers had been rounded to the nearest 10, adding: “The number of personnel overseas fluctuates on a daily basis for a variety of reasons including temporary absence for training, evacuation for medical reasons, the roulement of forces and visits.”