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Monday, October 15, 2012

British firm secured Benghazi consulate contract with little experience

A small British firm based in south Wales had secured a contract to provide security for American diplomatic facilities in Benghazi despite having only a few months experience in the country.

Sources have told the Daily Telegraph that just five unarmed locally hired Libyans were placed on duty at the compound on eight-hour shifts under a deal that fell outside the State Department's global security contracting system.

Blue Mountain, the Camarthen firm that won a $387,000 (£241,000) one year contract from the US State Department to protect the compound in May, sent just one British employee, recruited from the celebrity bodyguard circuit, to oversee the work.

The compound was overrun by a mob of Islamic extremists on the morning of September 12 in an apparent planned attack that resulted in the death by asphyxiation of the ambassador, Chris Stevens.

Blue Mountain, which is run by a former member of the SAS, received paper work to operate in Libya last year following the collapse of Col Muammar Gaddafi's regime. It worked on short term contacts to guard an expatriate housing compound and a five-star hotel in Tripoli before landing the prestigious US deal.

Other firms in the security industry expressed surprise that Blue Mountain had won a large, high profile contract from the US government. One industry executive said the level of service Blue Mountain provided did not appear adequate to the risks presented by a lawless city.

"We have visited the consulate in Benghazi a number of times and have an excellent relationship with the Americans. Our assessment was the unarmed Libyan guards were extremely poor calibre," said one security source. "The Libyan Ministry of Interior are generally not happy with Blue Mountain and had them on their close observation/target list."

The New York Times last week reported that major security firms with a track record of guarding US premises elsewhere had made approaches to undertake work in Libya but were rebuffed.

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