British secret service bungled plot to kill Gadafy, paper says

 

Britain's foreign intelligence service, MI6, attempted to kill Libya's leader, Colonel Muammar Gadafy, two years ago in a plot that led to the deaths of several bystanders, it was claimed yesterday. The allegations were made by Mr David Shayler, the former intelligence officer who is being held in a Paris jail pending extradition to Britain to face charges under the Official Secrets Act. They were reported in yesterday's New York Times.

The respected American newspaper reports that Mr Shayler claims that MI6 tried to assassinate Col Gadafy in February 1996 by planting a bomb under his motorcade. However agents placed the bomb under the wrong car, killing several bystanders. The report goes on to claim that the agent in charge had ties to a rightwing fundamentalist group in Libya and he was paid US$160,000 (£113,400).

Under British law it is legal for MI6 to carry out acts abroad which would be outlawed in Britain, providing they are authorised by the Foreign Secretary. The Conservative Party's Mr Malcolm Rifkind held the post at the time of the alleged plot.

There have been numerous attempts on Col Gadafy's life. The last reported attempt to kill him was two months ago, when gunmen opened fire on his entourage near Benghazi.

In 1986, the Thatcher government approved an air attack by British-based United States bombers on barracks where he slept.

Mr Shayler first came to public attention a year ago when he told the London-based Mail on Sunday that the domestic intelligence service for which he worked, MI5, held thousands of files on people, including Labour ministers it once considered potentially subversive, and he accused the agency of bungling operations.

A government injunction prevented newspapers from publishing further claims by Mr Shayler, who had fled to France.

Mr John Wadham, Mr Shayler's lawyer and director of the civil rights group, Liberty, said yesterday he was trying to free him from jail in Paris, as he began to fight the British government's request to extradite Mr Shayler to Britain, where he faces charges under the Official Secrets Act.

Speaking from Paris, Mr Wadham said: "I hope to be able to get a bail hearing next week and I hope then he will be released". But it could be months before Mr Shayler finds out if he will be returned to face trial in Britain.