HMS Cumberland to return to Libya - and HMS York could join her

HMS Cumberland
HMS Cumberland
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HMS Cumberland will be sent back to Libya tomorrow to rescue more people caught up in the country’s political crisis.

The Type 22 frigate docked in the Libyan port of Benghazi yesterday and picked up 68 British subjects stranded in the country.

Cumberland has 207 passengers on board and is currently sailing in rough seas to Malta. She is not expected to dock in Valetta until after midnight tonight.

A statement released on the website of the Foreign Office for the UK in Malta said the ship will then return to Libya to rescue more people.

The statement said: ‘HMS Cumberland departed from Benghazi on Thursday 24 February with 207 passengers, and will return on Saturday 26 February to continue the assisted departure of British nationals. HMS Cumberland will take passengers to Valetta, Malta.

‘Those in or close to Benghazi who want to leave should call 020 7008 0000 from the UK or 021 3403644/45 to register for departure from Benghazi over the weekend.’

Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered HMS York to stand-by to rescue British citizens from Libya.

The Portsmouth-based Type 42 destroyer was on her way to a deployment in the Falkland Islands and had stopped in Gibraltar. She has now been ordered to stay in the Mediterranean to await orders to enter the crisis-hit country.

A Royal Navy spokesman added: ‘HMS York is in the Mediterranean and is available. Prime Minister David Cameron has asked for her to be made available and she is now heading a bit closer to Libya. She is available if the need arises and she is standing by.’

David Cameron, who had been on a trip to the Middle East, arrived back in Britain today to take control of the government’s response to the crisis.

He chaired back to back meetings of the National Security Council and the Cobra emergencies committee in a bid to reassert control after days of criticism over the speed of Whitehall’s reaction.

It is estimated 500 British people are still stranded in Libya.

Speaking in Downing Street, Mr Cameron said: ‘We will do everything we can today and tomorrow to help those people and planning is under way to do just that.’

Mr Cameron urged all British citizens to ‘leave now’ and said: ‘I have asked HMS York to go in to the area to help if necessary.’

In a strongly worded statement from Downing Street, he warned the Libyan regime that ‘the world is watching you’, as he pledged to hold all those responsible for violence to account.