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'Intense' talks underway over 3 Dutch Navy crew held in Libya

From David Wilkinson, CNN
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  • NEW: Dutch authorities confirm 2 people shown on Libyan TV are captured crew members
  • Libyan state TV says the aircraft was a fighter helicopter with no permission to enter
  • The crew was trying to rescue a Dutch citizen from Libya when armed men captured them
  • "Intensive negotiations" are under way to get them freed, the Dutch defense ministry says

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(CNN) -- Dutch authorities continued to press Thursday for the release of three Navy personnel captured by armed men loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi days earlier during an evacuation operation.

"Intensive diplomatic negotiations" are going on between Dutch and Libyan authorities and relatives of the crew are being kept informed, said Otte Beeksma, a spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Defense.

The crew members were trying to evacuate a Dutch citizen from the Sirte area when they were taken prisoner, he said.

They deployed in a Lynx helicopter from the HMS Tromp, anchored off the Libyan coast, he said.

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A report on Libyan state television stated that the crew was in a fighter helicopter rather than one used for transportation or rescue. It claimed the aircraft did not have permission from Libyan authorities to enter the country, a violation of international law.

The state TV broadcast showed pictures of those believed to be the crew, as well as the helicopter and images of weapons.

After looking at the still pictures and video, Dutch authorities confirmed Thursday that at least two of the three people shown on the Libyan state TV footage are captured helicopter crew members, according to Beeksma.

Beeksma said that the ship's communications officer and Dutch consular authorities tried to negotiate the crew's release soon after they were taken captive, but they were not immediately successful.

The Dutch citizen they were trying to rescue and another European Union national have been transferred to the Dutch Embassy in Tripoli, Beeksma said, without saying whether the Dutch Navy had made contact with them.

News of their capture has not been made public until now, to prevent further endangering the Navy personnel involved, Beeksma said.

CNN's Per Nyberg contributed to this report.

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