2000 Libyan troops to be trained at Bassingbourn barracks

UP to 2,000 Libyan soldiers are to be trained at Bassingbourn barracks.

The troops are set for a 10-week stay at the barracks as part of an agreement drawn up by Britain and the other G8 nations. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the training is a bid to professionalise the Libyan armed forces and “help them achieve peace and stability across their country”.

Bassingbourn barracks closed down in March following the army’s withdrawal last year. As reported in The Crow, this led to all the clubs and societies based there being evicted.

Thought the MoD said all visiting soldiers will be “vetted in advance for medical, physical and behavioural suitability”, Bassingbourn resident Des Downey said: “How is the risk of major cultural difference and practice going to be managed by the MoD? Does it mean that the site security will have to be enhanced and then the recruits managed to ensure that there is no risk to the local community?”

Mr Downey is also a committee member at Bassingbourn Golf Club, which was evicted from its course on the barracks in March. As reported in The Crow, the club has made a formal complaint to the MoD about the way the closure of the barracks was handled.

He added: “These projects do not just appear out of thin air. It is just over three months since the sports clubs were evicted.

“The golf club felt that the intransigence of the MoD was actually hiding a possible project such as this. They refused point blank to discuss the very reasonable proposals by the clubs to manage access, health and safety, and security. Did MoD just want the clubs offsite because they knew that they’d effectively have to ‘lock down’ the site due to a foreign army presence?

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“Regrettably this may be yet another example of a government department that can’t recognise that they have a responsibility to be up front with their customers and the local community. We’ve just been told its happening - there has been no consultation yet again.”

Libya has been beset by problems since a civil war in 2011, which saw dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi overthrown. Two years on, fighting continues between government forces and militia, and last month over 40 people died in violent clashes in Benghazi and the nation’s capital, Tripoli.

Announcing the plans, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “The Government firmly believes that a stable, open and democratic Libya contributing to wider regional stability and security is in the UK’s interest.

“That is why we are working closely with the US and other European countries, to lead the broader international effort, coordinated by the UN Support Mission in Libya to support Libya’s democratic transition and the Libyan authorities’ efforts to make visible improvements in public security in Libya.”

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