British mercenaries involved in fly operation in Libya

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A Libyan woman hits a portrait of strongman Khalifa Haftar with a shoe during a demonstration with yellow vests ("gilets jaunes") against him in the capital Tripoli's Martyrs Square on April 19, 2019. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)

5 mercenaries were offered up to $150,000 each to fly helicopters for warlord Haftar, British media reported.

ANKARA

Five British mercenaries were involved in an operation to fly assault helicopters for warlord Khalifa Haftar in his offensive to capture Libya’s capital Tripoli, British media reported Friday.

The Telegraph report, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of a secret UN report, revealed that the mercenaries were offered up to $150,000 each for their role in the plot, which did not go well.

“$30,000 to $50,000 a month, or $20,000 to $40,000 per month depending on whether you were pilot or aircrewman,” the source added.

Among the 20 mercenaries who traveled to Libya last June, five were former British military personnel who served in Royal Maries and Royal Air Forces, the report suggested.

The report also alleged that the operation was led by Steven Lodge, a former South African Air Force officer who also served in the British military. But Lodge denied the accusations.

The operation “ended in farce” after a row broke out with Haftar over the quality of helicopters, according to the report.

The 20 men fled to Malta by military-grade Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs), where they were arrested and then released without charge.

Earlier in mid-May, international media, citing a UN report, revealed that two Dubai-based companies sent Western mercenaries to support Haftar in his offensive to capture Libya’s capital Tripoli.

They traveled to Libya in June 2019 for a “well funded private military company operation” to support Haftar’s offensive against the Libyan government.

Two diplomats told American media that two companies supplied “Haftar’s forces with helicopters, drones and cyber capabilities through a complex web of shell companies.”

Libya’s internationally recognized government, also known as the Government of National Accord, has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.

In March, the Libyan government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital, and recently regained strategic locations, including the Al-Watiya airbase, in a major blow to Haftar’s forces.

Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Libya’s new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to the military offensive by Haftar’s forces.

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