BEIRUT

Middle East

Documents: Libya warned UK ahead of 1984 shooting

  • British police officers stand guard outside Libya’s embassy in London.

LONDON: British officials were warned about possible violence the night before policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead in 1984 by a gunman inside the Libyan embassy in London, newly declassified documents reveal.

The documents, released Friday by Britain's National Archives, show that Libyan officials in Tripoli and London said the Libyan government would not be held responsible if there was violence at a planned anti-government rally outside the Libyan People's Bureau in London.

Fletcher was killed and 10 others injured when a gunman inside the bureau opened fire on protesters and police with a submachine gun. The killing led Britain to break diplomatic relations and helped seal Libya's reputation as a rogue state.

The files show that British ambassador Oliver Miles was summoned by Libyan officials in Tripoli the night before the slaying. They complained that the planned demonstration against Moammar Gadhafi's government represented an unacceptable threat to the embassy's security.

The message was passed on by telegram to British officials in London, but the demonstration went on as planned.

The files also showed that two Libyan diplomats went to the Foreign Office in London shortly after midnight with a similar warning about possible violence if the demonstration was not stopped.

The Foreign Office official who received the threat did not find it vitally important, papers show.

"This last is a standard Libyan line: We did not regard it as particularly significant at the time, though the act of calling at the FCO in the middle of the night was unusual," the duty officer's note said.

The officer did notify police and Britain's Home Office about the message.

The papers were made public under the "30-year rule" that governs release of many British government documents.

 
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