THE first of the British citizens plucked from Libya in a daring SAS-led undercover mission arrived back in the UK last night and spoke of the gratitude they felt toward their intrepid rescuers.
Around 150 civilians, mostly oil workers, were picked up from several remote landing strips in the Libyan desert in a secret operation on Saturday.
A similar number were successfully rescued last night by RAF Hercules aircraft and flown to safety in Malta.
Arriving back in England yesterday, oil worker Mike O’Donoghue, 62, from Bridlington, East Yorkshire, was asked to describe his feelings towards his rescuers. “They were magic people, perhaps the best in the world,” he said.
“We owe our lives to them perhaps, we don’t know, but they were certainly risking theirs.
“When we got on the plane there were two locals attacking the tyres with machetes and the special forces told them to stop. Fortunately someone tackled them and brought these guys down, but they were in a very difficult situation.”
Asked whether he was in fear of his life, Mr O’Donoghue said: “Of course, you’d be foolish not to be. You have to accept the worst and hope for the best.”
The Government moved yesterday to freeze the British-held assets of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and several of his family members. Prime Minister David Cameron last night urged the Libyan leader to “go now”, telling him there was “no future for Libya that includes him.”
Rebels are tightening their grip on the chaotic country, with a major city only 30 miles from the capital Tripoli the latest to fall.