Tripoli, Libya (Sputnik) – On Sunday, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond indicated that he would not rule out the possibility of joining the US and European allies in sending ground troops into Libya.
“It wouldn’t make sense to rule anything out because you never know how things are going to evolve,” Hammond told the Telegraph. “If naval or air support was requested for such an action, we would obviously look at it.”
But according to DEBKAfile, Britain already has Special Forces troops operating in Libya alongside Italian counterparts, and having come under fire by Daesh militants on Wednesday, any Western invasion could now face complications.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the incident occurred on April 27, as a convoy of Italian, British, and Libyan forces moved from the city of Misrata toward the Daesh-held city of Sirte. The ambush involved vehicles packed with explosives, which pulled up alongside the convoy before detonating.
Western forces were only able to repel additional attackers with the aid of Italian and French warplanes and attack helicopters.
“Italian troops were among those killed or wounded in the battle, but there is no information whether there were British casualties as well,” DEBKAfile reports. “Some reports say members of the Western force were taken prisoner by ISIS, although they have yet to be identified.”
Sources also describe an effort by Western powers to silence reports of the incident.
“A joint command consisting of officers from Britain, France, Italy, Germany and the US that is responsible for planning the invasion of Libya, as well as the Italian and British defense ministries, imposed a media blackout regarding the battle,” DEBKAfile reports.
The incident may have put a damper on Europe’s confidence in launching a more overt invasion. Two days before the attack, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi seemed open to deploying troops to Libya.
“We are ready for a strong role, but for no adventures,” Renzi told la Repubblica newspaper.
One day after the incident, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni expressed a different sentiment.
“Italy has no plans to send troops to Libya without a request from the unity government that is backed by the UN,” he told parliament, according to DEBKAfile
This report prepared by Sputnik.