CAIRO — Two former British marines piloted their boats, a pair of military-grade inflatables, across the Mediterranean from Malta. Six helicopters were flown in from Botswana using falsified papers. The rest of the team — soldiers of fortune from South Africa, Britain, Australia and the United States — arrived from a staging area in Jordan. To anyone who asked, the mercenaries who slipped into the war-pocked port of Benghazi, Libya , last summer said they had come to guard oil and gas facilities. In fact, United Nations investigators later determined, their mission was to fight alongside the Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter in his all-out assault on the capital, Tripoli, for which they were to be paid $80 million. It quickly went wrong. A dispute erupted with Mr. Hifter, a notoriously mercurial leader, over the quality of the aircraft. On July 2, after just four days in Libya, the mercenaries scrambled for their speedboats and roared out to sea, headed for the safety of Malta. Although short-lived, the botched mission offers a telling illustration of the melee in Libya, where a war driven by powerful foreign sponsors — principally the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Russia and Egypt — has created a lucrative… Read full this story
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