25/02/2011

Further Attempts At Libya Rescues Underway

The Republic's Air Corps is to attempt another evacuation of Irish citizens from Tripoli on Friday after a failed attempt on Wednesday night.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday evening that an Emergency Assistance Team is to be sent to Libya to assist in the departure of Irish citizens from the country.

A military deployed plane was turned away on Wednesday, unable to rescue stranded Irish nationals from the troubled country.

The rescue effort planned to fly into Tripoli on a commercial airline on Friday morning with visas supplied by the Libyan embassy in London to prepare the way for an Air Corps CASA aircraft.

The British effort to try and rescue UK nationals from Libya is also still underway with scores of Britons remaining stranded despite some 500 leaving the country by plane and boat on Thursday.

However the Foreign Office estimate that a further 500 Britons remain, including oil workers and those based in the capital of Tripoli.

The Prime Minister has also called a meeting of the National Security Council after being forced to say he was "extremely sorry" over the Government's rescue efforts to date.

David Cameron's statement followed criticism by the Labour Party of being "slow off the mark" in response to the unrest.

Earlier this week a plane chartered by oil companies for employees, carried 79 passengers to Gatwick and government-chartered flights transported 181 adults and two children, including 113 Britons home.

A additional flight arrived at Gatwick early this morning, however the number of passengers on board has not yet been confirmed.

As part of the government's evacuation strategy a third commercial plane is to leave Tripoli.

The frigate HMS Cumberland has picked up 68 British nationals from Benghazi and is heading for Malta in very heavy seas.

However, most of the 3,500 Britons living in Libya before the crisis are believed to have left already with the Foreign Office having sent teams to Tripoli airport to register Britons for the flights, and to hand out food and water.

Meanwhie, in Dublin, the Department of Foreign Affairs said 31 Irish citizens were still in Tripoli last night, and another 12 were stranded in Benghazi. Six others are located in the country's desert.
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Those in Benghazi will leave by boat organised in partnership with other EU countries and those in the desert are expected to drive across the border or make their way to Tripoli.

The Air Corps Learjet spent four hours at Tripoli airport on Wednesday night before Libyan security officials forced the plane to depart. The aircraft returned to its dispatch in Valetta, Malta.

Defence Forces had been tasked with providing the evacuation of approximately 40 Irish citizens from Libya as the country continues to be gripped by national unrest.

The jet departed Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel at 8.40pm on Wednesday and an Air Corps CASA aircraft was also due to depart at 10.00pm.

Both Aircraft flew to Valletta, Malta from where they were on stand-by to fly to Tripoli to conduct the evacuation operation if required. Only one plane was dispatched, but returned empty handed.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Irish contingent was prevented from boarding by Libyan security.

Libyan protestors have been calling for Muammar Gaddafi to step down as Libyan leader for over a week despite infuriated and bizarre threats, including claims that "al-Qaeda is responsible for the uprising", from the dictator who has been in power for over 41 years.

Gaddafi is struggling to maintain his authority in the country, as major swathes of territory in the east of the vast North African country now appear to be under the control of pro-democracy protesters.

His power in the country has crumbled in recent days with the defection of high-profile officials, and major elements of his army, leading to the fall of the country's second largest city, Benghazi, falling to protestors.

However, Gaddafi's assertions he would fight until the "last man standing" are holding, as a Libyan army unit loyal to Gaddafi blasted the minaret of a mosque being occupied by protesters in Az-Zawiya, according to middle eastern news network, Al Jazzeera. Witnesses told the network that protesters had sustained heavy casualties in the attack, but exact figures on casualties or deaths remain unclear.

According to the Reuters news agency, pro-Gaddafi forces also attacked the town of Misrata, which was under the control of protesters. Similar clashes have also been reported in the cities of Sabha in the south, and Sabratha, near Tripoli, which is in the west.

See: Irish Military Plane To Return To Tripoli

(DW)

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