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THE Foreign Office has been branded a “disgrace” over its refusal to release records of a special forces training exercise in the Middle East 35 years ago.
Omani exile Khalfan al-Badwawi is demanding transparency on British military involvement in the Gulf.
Oman is ruled by the tyrannical Sultan Qaboos, who was placed on the throne by British forces in 1970.
The Special Air Service (SAS) helped the sultan crush a left-wing revolution and continues to make extensive use of Oman as a secret training ground.
Mr Badwawi is demanding access to a Foreign Office file from the early 1980s entitled: Oman: Anti-Terrorism Training and Assistance by the Special Air Service.
The file was due for release at the National Archives in 2013, when it was 30 years old. However, the Foreign Office clung onto the papers.
This month, the department rejected a Freedom of Information request from Mr Badwawi seeking the file’s declassification.
The campaigner lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office today.
“I was tortured by the Omani regime,” Mr Badwawi told the Star.
“Now I want to know what role the UK military played and how they are still contributing to repression in Oman.
“As UK citizens, we are entitled to have access to public information, to know how our tax money is being spent.”
He said the continuing censorship was a “disgrace.”
The file is believed to contain details of Exercise Sandy Wanderer, a three-month SAS training session deep in the Omani desert.
Two SAS veterans have written about the exercise in their memoirs. One author, Rusty Firmin, claims the elite troops were treated to a lavish farewell party at the British embassy in Muscat.
A senior NCO became so drunk, he slipped away “into the bushes for a quick shit,” Mr Firmin wrote. However, someone turned on the embassy’s floodlights and caught him squatting in the middle of the lawn. The soldier was expelled from the SAS for 12 months.
Mr Badwawi’s complaint states: “It is untenable that the public can learn more about SAS training in Oman by visiting their local Waterstone’s than it can from visiting the UK National Archives.”
Last week, the Star revealed that dozens of British troops were injured during a training exercise in Oman this year.
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