Cambridgeshire

Libyan cadet in Bassingbourn claims 'poor treatment'

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Media captionOmar Al-Mukhtar, not one of the accused, said the Libyan soldiers think the men concerned were badly treated.

A Libyan soldier has spoken to BBC News from the Cambridgeshire barracks at the centre of Britain's controversial training mission for the Libyan army.

About 300 cadets are being sent home early from Bassingbourn Barracks after allegations of sex attacks.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed some recruits left the UK earlier and the others will go in the "coming days".

Omar Al-Mukhtar, not one of the accused, said the Libyan soldiers think the men concerned were badly treated.

The MoD declined to comment on Mr Al-Mukhtar's criticism.

Two of the cadets have admitted sexual assaults against women in Cambridge, with another charged but yet to enter a plea, and a further two have appeared in court charged with rape.

Security reinforced

Nearby residents have complained about the Libyan cadets leaving the base to buy alcohol and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted there have been disciplinary issues.

Security around the barracks has been reinforced with soldiers brought from Scotland to secure the base.

Mr Al-Mukhtar said the Libyan cadets were allowed out for only three hours a week and were always accompanied by British soldiers when they left the barracks.

He added that when soldiers left the base they had been offered drugs, alcohol and sex for money.

Image caption Extra security was brought on to the base at Bassingbourn

Responding to reports of indiscipline and in-fighting between the cadets, he said that there had been "a small problem", but that everyone was now friends again.

However, he then said there had been "several problems" between the Libyan cadets and British soldiers.

While the BBC understands that a handful of the Libyans - thought to be around five - have lodged asylum claims, Mr Al-Mukhtar denied this.

He said they were proud to be Libyan and did not want to live in a foreign country.

Image caption Libyan troops would only be allowed out on escorted trips, the MoD initially told nearby residents

Mr Al-Mukhtar said he and other Libyans were proud to have graduated from the training course at Bassingbourn, and that they were very happy with the training they had received.

He described it as being of a high standard, and said: "Even the generals here say we did really well".

'Blame the British'

However, he said the cadets were unhappy with the way they had been treated by the British government, which he said had "not offered a comfortable way of living here [at the barracks]", and that some people were "trying to ruin the reputation of the Libyan Army".

Asked why the cadets were being flown home two weeks before the end of their course, he said: "I feel, like all the rest of us, there is no problem.

"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."

Image caption The cadets are understood to be leaving the barracks on Friday

Mr Al-Mukhtar complained that when the cadets were arrested and their comrades went to ask the authorities at the base what was happening, they were given no information.

He said the cadets believed the arrested men were "unlawfully treated", adding: "We blame the British authorities for dealing with it in this way."

He said Libyan cadets at the base believed the British authorities dealt with the arrested men in "an unlawful way… we blame the British authorities for not taking proper care of us".

Asked if the cadets had a message for the British government he said: "Not to take things too seriously".

The last of the Libyan cadets are due to leave the base on Friday, and the MOD said the training of Libyan soldiers in the UK was "being reviewed".

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