Libya TV shows captured Dutch navy helicopter crew

Dutch TV rebroadcast video of the crew with their faces obscured

A Dutch navy helicopter crew have been shown on Libyan state TV after being captured while attempting to evacuate two foreign citizens.

The TV showed the three-strong crew, their Lynx helicopter and weapons, saying they had entered Libyan air space "in breach of international law".

Dutch officials say the helicopter was captured on Sunday near Sirte while trying to fly out two Europeans.

Talks are under way to free the crew, who are two men and one woman.

They had landed near Sirte, a port city in central Libya under the control of government forces, to carry out a "consular evacuation", the Dutch defence ministry said.

An armed Libyan unit captured them along with the two evacuees - a Dutch national and another, unidentified European - who were later released by the Libyan authorities and left the country.

The Dutch defence ministry has been in contact with the crew who were "doing well under the circumstances", a Dutch spokesman said on Thursday.

They had flown into Libya from the Dutch warship Tromp, which is anchored off the coast.

Machine gun

Footage shown by Libyan TV, which cannot be verified, shows the three crew members sitting in an office with Libyans and sipping canned drinks.

A helicopter with Dutch naval markings can be seen parked on sand as gunmen cheer and wave their weapons around it.

When a heavy machine gun and belt of bullets are displayed, an on-screen caption in Arabic says: "According to the [Saudi-backed] broadcaster al-Arabiya, this helicopter was sent to rescue people, but we can see something else here.

"The helicopter flew into Libyan airspace and landed in Sirte without any permission from the authorities and this is in violation of international law."

Assault rifles, dollar notes, notebooks, pistols, mobile phones, bullets and ammunition, military-fatigue body armour, inflatable life jackets and a Sony digital camera are also shown off in the video.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that the Dutch national whose evacuation the crew had been trying to complete was handed over to the Dutch embassy and is now back in the Netherlands.

He had been working for the Dutch engineering company Royal Haskoning.

'Everything being done'

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said news of the crew's capture had been kept quiet initially to assist the talks on their release.

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"It is terrible for the crew of the Lynx helicopter," he said.

"Everything is being done to make sure the crew get home."

The Tromp, which was initially to have taken part in an anti-piracy operation off Somalia, headed for the Libyan coast on 24 February.

Initial reports talked of "marines" being captured but an official statement posted later on the defence ministry's website describes the captives as a naval helicopter crew.

The port city of Sirte is considered the main remaining stronghold of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in the centre of the country, as he struggles with a spreading revolt against his rule.

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