By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 3 November 2014:
Libyan army cadets despatched this summer for six-months’ basic training in the UK are being sent . . .[restrict]home early, after three of their number were charged sex attacks in a nearby town and following a minor mutiny last September which saw a British soldier roughed up.
The Ministry of Defence in London announced this afternoon that the end-date of the course was being brought forward and the remainder of the original 300-strong contingent would be sent home soon. A ministry spokesman also said that the UK was reviewing its commitment to train a total of 2,000 Libyan cadets.
There were high hopes when 300 young soldiers arrived in June at Bassingbourn Barracks in Cambridgeshire in the east of England. But when fighting erupted in Tripoli in July, there were anxieties and tensions among the young men, some of whom were already struggling to keep up with the tough training regime being delivered by 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The cadets were also only permitted to leave their barracks on supervised visits.
It was when three of their number were found in the nearby town of Bassingbourn, arrested and confined to the camp guardhouse that the first real trouble began. Angry comrades broke into the building demanding the three men be released. They roughed up the duty corporal and he agreed to set the trio free.
The British army quickly mounted an enquiry, which sent home all those involved in the guardhouse raid. However it appears that it was also decided to ease the rule that the Libyan cadets should be confined to barracks.
Nine days ago three cadets, Khaled El Azibi, 18, Ibrahim Naji El Maarfi, 20, and Mohammed Abdalsalam, 27, were charged with attacking women in the university town of Cambridge. Abdalsalam was also charged with using insulting and threatening behaviour toward a police officer. All three accused have had their cases passed from the magistrates court to the higher Crown Court.
It is not yet clear precisely when or how the 270 remaining cadets will be returned to Libya.
A recently-retired British army officer, with knowledge of the training, speaking on a background basis to the Libya Herald said he had some sympathy with the Libyans. “ When foreign military come to the UK it is mostly as officer cadets or experienced officers attending staff courses. When we train rank and file soldiers, it is generally in-country with a course which, though still challenging, is tailored to the local culture. Basic training is a miserable experience for everyone. It is not supposed to be a party. But it surely gets worse when you are confined to barracks, two or three thousand miles away from friends and relatives while your country is brewing up and there is nothing you can do about it. I tend to think the MoD [Ministry of Defence] probably got it wrong here”.