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LIBYA: Britain sends military to rescue 150 citizens from Libyan desert, closes embassy

February 26, 2011 | 12:13 pm

Royal Air Force transports swooped into the Libyan desert Saturday and rescued 150 British citizens stranded there, according to the British Foreign Office. The British government also announced a temporary closure of its embassy in Libya and said it had pulled diplomatic staff from Tripoli.

Liam Fox, Britain's Secretary for Defense, said, "I can confirm that two RAF C130 Hercules aircraft have evacuated more than 150 civilians from desert locations south of Benghazi." A spokesperson for Britain's Foreign Office, reached by phone, said the government could not provide information on who the civilians were or why they were in the desert. The evacuees were flown to Malta, the foreign office said.

The operation took place without Libyan permission and involved the Special Boat Service, a special forces unit, according to Sky News.

The operation took place in the eastern deserts of Libya, where opponents of Kadafi have taken control. Reuters reports that the rescued were oil workers from camps in the desert, some of which have experienced looting in recent days.

The British government has helped about 600 of its citizens evacuate the country. The Foreign Office said a Boeing jet was set to arrive in Libya today to evacuate any remaining British citizens in the country, and that it would likely be the last flight sponsored by the government.

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-- Alana Semuels

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