Libyan soldiers who went on rampage were 'beyond the pale'

About 300 cadets were sent home early from Bassingbourn Barracks

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The Independent Online

The Prime Minister is calling for an investigation into allegations of sex attacks by Libyan army recruits training in  Cambridgeshire.

About 300 cadets were sent home early from Bassingbourn Barracks after claims they were responsible for sexual assaults, theft and drunken behaviour in the area. They had been on a training programme at the base intended to improve their military skills and help to bring stability in Libya.

Two cadets admitted sexual assaults against women in Cambridge. Another soldier has been charged but has yet to enter a plea, and a further two have appeared in court charged with rape.

Omar Al-Mukhtar, a Libyan cadet at the base but not one of those implicated in the crimes, said Libyan soldiers thought the men accused of assault had been treated badly. He told the BBC that he felt “there is no problem”. Mr Al-Mukhtar added that there had been conflict between British and Libyan soldiers at the base and blamed the UK Government for not offering “a comfortable way of living here”.

He claimed that some people were “trying to ruin the reputation of the Libyan army” and that his fellow soldiers had been offered alcohol, drugs, and sex for money when they left the base. He said: “It was the British from the beginning. They should have sought a solution and finished the training well. They didn’t tell us about British law and what’s the difference between right and wrong here.”

The head of the British Army has admitted that it was “extraordinarily difficult” to control the base where the five soldiers accused of sex crimes were stationed. General Sir Nicholas Carter, the Chief of the General Staff, said the alleged attacks were “completely beyond the pale” and “absolutely regrettable” as he appeared before MPs on the Commons Defence Select Committee.

He added: “Bassingbourn is not a prison camp. From our perspective, we’ve done everything that we have tried to do to motivate and to be focused entirely on training. Indeed, we have run an extremely tough walking out policy in conjunction with the Home Office who have helped in all of this and the upshot is that it is absolutely regrettable that this has occurred.”

Andrew Lansley, the MP for South Cambridgeshire, challenged the Prime Minister to act during Parliament’s Prime Ministers Questions.

Mr Cameron responded: “These are criminal actions and I have asked the Chief of the Defence Staff for a report into this. The decision was taken at the National Security Council, which I chaired, on 28 October to end this training altogether.”