The three-strong Dutch helicopter crew, picked up in Libya 12 days ago while trying to rescue two stranded Europeans, has arrived in Athens and will return to the Netherlands later today or tomorrow.
The three were taken by a Greek military plane along with a number of Greek nationals who were leaving Libya.
One of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s sons Saif al-Islam had said late on Thursday the three would be released.
‘We have told them not to come back without our permission,’ he was quoted as saying by Nos television. ‘We picked up the first Nato troops and today we are sending them home. But we are keeping their helicopter.’
There are few details about the negotiations and no mention of specific conditions for their release. The Dutch diplomatic team included Ed Kronenburg, secretary general of the foreign affairs ministry.
Foreign minister Uri Rosenthal told Nos radio on Friday morning no money had been paid to secure their release and no promises had been made.
Prime minister Mark Rutte said he was delighted at the news and thanked Greece and Malta for their role in ensuring the release.
Defence minister Hans Hillen said the three, including one woman, had been properly treated but said they had nevertheless gone through a traumatic experience. ‘But soldiers are trained for these situations. The Lynx helicopter crew was very experienced.’
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