Qaddafi Takes His First Western Hostages

libya gaddafi qadhafi

Photo: Al-Jazeera

The Dutch defence Ministry announced this morning that three crew members of a Dutch naval helicopter team have been taken hostage by forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi.  The three men were in Libya rescuing Europeans seeking to flee the country.  The New York Times reports:Otte Beeksma, a spokesman for the defence Ministry, said the pro-Qaddafi forces had also captured two civilians being rescued — one Dutch, the other from an unspecified European country — who had since been released. Dutch officials declined to give personal details of the crew members while confidential negotiations for their release were underway.

The authorities had kept word of the capture a secret until a Dutch newspaper broke the story.

Mr. Beeksma said the crew of a Lynx helicopter had landed in the coastal city of Surt — Colonel Qaddafi’s hometown and one of his strongholds — after flying from a Dutch warship, the HNLMS Tromp, anchored offshore. The helicopter was “surrounded by armed Libyan forces late on Sunday afternoon.”

US and NATO military commanders have been debating whether to impose a “no-fly” zone over Libyan airspace.  The hostage-taking is almost certainly aimed at complicating those discussions.

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