Two Libyan soldiers receiving training from the British Army in Cambridgeshire have pleaded guilty to sex offences as police investigate nine attacks over one weekend earlier this month, after which chiefs were forced to cancel British troops’ leave to enforce order.
As part of a programme to prepare Libya to endure its transition to democracy, the government agreed to train 2,000 soldiers and officers in the UK in the best of British discipline and skills, although it seems to have had little effect on the Libyans so far. Over the weekend of the 17th October, a group of soldiers climbed the fence of Bassingbourn Barracks, stole bicycles and rode 14 miles to Cambridge to conduct the attacks.
Once there, the men acted “like a pack” and attacked their victims in a lane. Ibrahim Naji El Maarfi, 20, flashed a woman and conducted two sexual assaults, his colleague Mohammed Abdalsalam, 27, abused a police officer and committed a sexual assault. They also tried to put their hands up girls skirts. A third soldier didn’t enter a plea but stands accused of three sex crimes, and theft.
Scottish newspaper The Record reports the comments of a soldier from 2SCOTS the Royal Highland Fusiliers, who remarked of his fellow soldiers having their leave cancelled so they could discipline the errant Libyans: “Some of the boys have been told they need to get back into barracks and go down and help out 3 Scots…. All we have been told is that it has been kicking off down there with the Libyan troops who are training at Bassingbourn. We just have to go down there and sort it out”.
An army spokesman said: “As a result of recent events, such permissions and opportunities are being kept to an absolute minimum and unescorted visits will not be permitted, which alongside additional precautions being taken with the local police should reassure the local community.”
Cambridge police confirmed it had increased patrols as a measure to provide reassurance to locals, but at least one was not impressed. She told Cambridge News: “How much more of this can our village take before some serious action is enforced and we say enough is enough? I have never felt so unsafe in a village I have lived in for over 16 years”.
The Libyan civil war of 2011 overthrew the Gaddafi regime, but has led to an ongoing conflict which has caused the deaths of thousands and has undermined the legitimacy of the de jure parliamentary republic government. An jihadist rebel militia linked to the Muslim Brotherhood claims to control the key strategic port of Benghazi, Libya’s second city.