SAS troopers help co-ordinate rebel attacks in Libya
The serving soldiers have joined British special forces and have been acting as forward air controllers and advising on tactics
The Guardian has learned that a number of serving British special forces soldiers, as well as former SAS troopers, are advising and training rebel forces, although their presence is officially denied.
The Guardian has previously reported the presence of former British special forces troops, now employed by private security companies and funded by a number of sources, including Qatar. They have been joined by a number of serving SAS soldiers.
They have been acting as forward air controllers – directing pilots to targets – and communicating with Nato operational commanders. They have also been advising rebels on tactics, a task they have not found easy.
For the SAS it is a return to old stamping grounds. In one of their first successful missions in the second world war, they attacked airfields inLibya, destroying 60 aircraft. SAS battle honours include Tobruk in 1941 and a raid on Benghazi in 1942.
They returned to Libya in February this year, even before the UN mandate urging states to protect civilians from Gaddafi's forces. Shortly afterwards, a group of SAS soldiers were seized, though quickly released, by nervous rebels south of Benghazi when their Chinook helicopter landed two MI6 officers with communications equipment.
SAS soldiers later advised Misrata-based rebel forces who secured the port city and helped to pass on details of the locations of Gaddafi's forces to British commanders in the UK and the Naples headquarters of Canadian commander of Nato forces, Lt Gen Charles Bouchard.
In what is hoped to be the endgame in the Libyan conflict and the fight to oust Gaddafi, a number of SAS soldiers are now advising the rebels as they storm the capital, Tripoli.
France is understood to have deployed special forces in Libya and Qatari and Jordanian special forces are believed to have also played a role.