Cambridgeshire

MoD pays damages over sex attacks by Libyan cadets in UK

Bassingbourn Barracks Image copyright PA
Image caption Bassingbourn Barracks has been home to the military since World War Two when it was an RAF base

Compensation has been paid by the Ministry of Defence to people sexually abused by Libyan soldiers in Cambridge.

More than 300 cadets had been brought to the UK in 2014 for training at Bassingbourn barracks, Cambridgeshire.

Two of them raped a man and, on the same night, three other cadets sexually assaulted four teenage girls.

Lawyers for the male victim and one of the teenagers confirmed the MoD had agreed to pay them damages, believed to be tens of thousands of pounds.

Image caption The troops were the first of 2,000 due to be trained at the barracks near Cambridge

But lawyer Kim Harrison, who represented two of the victims, said: "I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions that the Ministry of Defence need to answer, not just to my clients who've been through an appalling ordeal but for the wider community who were terrified at the time."

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the local community complained of a number of incidents, including alleged sexual assaults and vandalism, in the weeks leading up to the attacks on her clients.

"Security was increased but it just wasn't increased enough," she said, adding that the only way for the MoD to lock down the barracks was to cancel the programme entirely.

The British government initially agreed to put 2,000 Libyan soldiers through basic training to help stabilise their country after the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The sexual assaults in Cambridge brought the agreement - which cost the UK £13.9m - to a premature end and the cadets based at Bassingbourn were sent home.

'Unimaginably traumatic'

The first victim was raped at night on Christ's Pieces in Cambridge city centre by Moktar Ali Saad Mahmoud, 33, and Ibrahim Abugtila, 23.

The defendants had denied attacking the man but were seen on CCTV leading him to the park. The pair were convicted by a jury and sentenced to 12 years in jail.

Image copyright Cambridgeshire Police
Image caption The pair were spotted on CCTV prior to the rape harassing women in Cambridge city centre

On the same night Khaled El Azibi, 19, Ibrahim Naji El Maarfi, 21, and 28-year-old Mohammed Abdalsalam fled the barracks and carried out sex attacks on three women.

El Azibi was sentenced to 12 months and El Maarfi and Abdalsalam each to 10 months.

Image copyright Terry Harris
Image caption Troops were sent home early after the sex attacks came to light

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Compensation payments have been made to two people treated appallingly by several Libyan cadets being trained in the UK.

"We have previously expressed regret that there were things we could have done better with this programme."

Ms Harrison said the MoD has made no formal admission of liability to her clients, which is "upsetting them a lot".

She added: "But it's clear that paying this compensation... is some acceptance of responsibility".

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