Britons evacuated by special forces


One of the two RAF Hercules on the tarmac at Gudja International Airport, Malta (AP)

Dozens of British oil workers were preparing to return to the UK after being airlifted to safety from the Libyan desert in a dramatic military rescue mission.

Special forces using two RAF Hercules transporters picked up 150 civilians – mostly Britons – from a number of remote landing strips amid fast-deteriorating security conditions.

As the final evacuation efforts continued, the international community hardened its line against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime – discussing tough sanctions at the United Nations.

Washington called directly for the dictator to step down as the UN Security Council prepared to vote on measures including referring the brutal crackdown to the International Criminal Court.

As well as the SAS-led mission deep into the North African state, the final Government-chartered flight out of Tripoli delivered another 53 Britons back to Gatwick Airport late on Saturday night.

Among them were the staff of the British Embassy in Tripoli which has been closed – with representation being temporarily taken over by Turkey.

Another 68 returned home on a flight from Malta after being rescued from the Libyan second city Benghazi on board HMS Cumberland which is now returning to collect more evacuees. It remained unclear how many UK nationals remained in the North African state but evacuation plans are being co-ordinated with European and other allies.

Workers rescued by the SAS-led operation were met by Red Cross staff and put up in Maltese hotels and are expected to return to the UK on a Foreign Office-funded flight on Sunday or Monday.

One, Peter Dingle, said some locals had turned to looting, stealing cars and equipment from the site and camp area and that their security guards had fled. Local people stepped in to protect them instead, he said, adding: “It was a good job they did.”

Supporting the uprising against the world’s longest-serving leader, he said: “These are the people that have been suppressed over the years. It’s time to make a better life for themselves.”

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