Three Dutch Marines Captured In Libya

[Ed. Note: An update to this post has been added to the end and can be seen after the jump.]

Three Dutch marines are being held by authorities in Libya after they were captured by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi while trying to rescue Dutch workers, a Defense Ministry spokesman said today.

The three, crew members of a Dutch naval helicopter from the HMS Tromp, were “surrounded by armed Libyan forces late on Sunday afternoon” after landing near the Gaddafi hometown of Sirte. The Tromp has been anchored off Libya’s coast to assist with evacuations from the conflict torn country, spokesman Otto Beeksma told the Associated Press.

Asked if the Dutch government considered the marines hostages, Beeksma said, “they are being held by Libyan authorities.”

Government officials had kept word of the capture a secret until the Dutch daily De Telegraaf broke the story.

“These are situations that benefit from total secrecy because then you can carry out discussions in peace to ensure these people get home safely,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

The Netherlands is now engaged in “intensive negotiations” with Gaddafi’s government to secure the marines’ release, Beeksma said.

“We have also been in contact with the crewmen involved,” Beeksma said. “They are doing well under the circumstances and we hope they will be released as quickly as possible. Everything is being done to make sure the crew gets home.”

Two people the marines were trying to rescue also were captured but have since been released and have left Libya.

UPDATE 2011.03.04 01:42 GMT: Libyan state TV has aired footage of the Dutch helicopter crew in uniform drinking soft drinks. The crew’s faces were blocked out. The helicopter, a machine gun and other weapons said to be on board are also shown.

The broadcast said that Libya regards the Dutch nationals as having entered Libyan air space without permission, in violation of international law.

Authorities in the Netherlands confirmed that at least two of the three men shown are members of the helicopter crew.

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