The Dutch Defense Ministry announced that three of its marines have been captured in Libya by troops loyal to Moammar Gaddafi, while participating in an operation to help evacuate foreigners out of the country.
The government said that it is in intensive negotiations to free the soldiers.
The marines were reportedly based on the Dutch warship Tromp just off the Libyan coast. They had landed their Lynx near the port of Sirte (a Gaddafi stronghold) on Sunday.
The defense ministry noted it was in contact with the marines, who are doing well under the circumstances.”
We hope they will be released as quickly as possible, a spokesman told the Associated Press.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said news of the capture was kept secret in order to allow for talks on their release.
These are situations that benefit from total secrecy because then you can carry out discussions in peace to ensure these people get home safely, he told Dutch news broadcaster NOS.
It is terrible for the crew of the Lynx helicopter. Everything is being done to make sure the crew gets home.
Holland, along with UK, France and a number of other nations, have started emergency airlifts to help tens of thousands of foreign workers escape Libya. Ships have also been sent to aid in the chaotic exodus.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that 180,000 people have so far left Libya in the past few days for Tunisia, another 77,000 have journeyed into Egypt, while at least another 30,00 are at the border seeking to enter Tunisia. Most of these refugees are Egyptian and Tunisian, but there are also large numbers of East Asians and Africans (including Bangladeshis, Vietnamese, Thais, Koreans, Malians, Ghanaians and Sudanese), whose governments have shown little willingness to bring them home.