THE RAF pulled off a second successful undercover rescue of British and international citizens from Libya yesterday as anti-Government forces increased their hold on the chaotic country.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said last night that three RAF C130 Hercules aircraft had evacuated around 150 civilians from multiple locations in the eastern Libyan desert, landing them safely in Malta.
The rescue follows a similarly daring SAS-led mission on Saturday which saw Hercules aircraft pick up a similar number of civilians – many of them stranded oil workers – from several remote landing strips amid fast deteriorating security conditions.
The first wave of those evacuated arrived on board a Boeing 747 last night, and oil worker Mike O’Donoghue, 62, from Bridlington, East Yorkshire, said he was grateful for the rescue efforts.
“My heart and hand goes out to them,” he said. “They’re the best in the world and make it look so easy, like all good professionals.”
Libya’s long-time ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is growing more isolated by the day as anti-Government protesters backed by large numbers of rebel army increase their grip on the country.
Reporters who arrived yesterday in the city of Zawiya, 30 miles west of the capital Tripoli, said anti-government rebels were in control of the city centre – though forces loyal to Gaddafi were surrounding its outskirts.
Police stations and government offices have been torched and anti-Gaddafi graffiti is everywhere. Many buildings in the city are pockmarked by bullet holes.
“Gaddafi Out,” chanted hundreds in the city centre, where army tanks controlled by rebels are deployed.
The fall of Zawiya means much of the country is now under rebel control, though a defiant Colonel Gaddafi insisted again yesterday that he will remain in power.
Britain has joined international calls for the Libyan leader, Foreign Secretary William Hague saying: “Of course it is time for Colonel Gaddafi to go. That is the best hope for Libya”.
Mr Hague said he had revoked diplomatic immunity for the dictator and his family and the Treasury was urgently tracking down Gaddafi assets held in Britain to be frozen under United Nations sanctions.
In an unprecedented unanimous vote, the UN Security Council also agreed to refer the brutal repression of the popular uprising to the International Criminal Court.
Chancellor George Osborne announced that the Government had implemented the asset freeze on Gaddafi, five of his children “and those acting on their behalf” with immediate effect.
No immediate figure was put on the value of the assets which banks and other financial institutions are now under an obligation to track down and freeze.
All existing export licences for goods and technology that could be used for internal repression have been revoked and future licences will be subject to the UN embargo.
Mr Osborne said: “I have today taken action to freeze the assets in the UK of Colonel Gaddafi and his family or those acting on their behalf so that they cannot be used against the interests of the Libyan people.”
Mr Fox said efforts to evacuate any remaining British citizens will continue, with battleships remaining in the region.
“HMS Cumberland has set sail for Malta after making a second visit to the port of Benghazi, where she recovered around 200 civilians from various nations including around 50 British nationals,” he said.
“HMS York remains in the region and stands ready to assist as required.”