3 French Soldiers Killed During Anti-terror Mission in Libya

Soldiers patrols on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, the scene of last week’s truck attack that killed more than 80 people. (Claude Paris/AP)
Soldiers patrols on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, the scene of last week’s truck attack that killed more than 80 people. (Claude Paris/AP)

Three French soldiers were killed in Libya “while on a mission,” the French Defense Ministry announced Wednesday in the first official confirmation that French special forces have been active in Libya in apparent operations against the Islamic State.

The Defense Ministry declined to confirm the reported details of the soldiers’ deaths, but President François Hollande, addressing a military training center in southwestern France, specifically mentioned a “helicopter crash.”

The Associated Press, quoting Libyan officials, reported that the soldiers were killed Sunday in an attack on their helicopter. An Islamist militia known as the Defending Benghazi Brigade asserted responsibility for the downing.

There are an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 Islamic State fighters across Libya, which has been gripped by unrest and political upheavals since a Western-aided uprising in 2011 deposed longtime ruler Moammar Gaddafi, who was captured and killed by rebels.

In Paris, government spokesman Stéphane Le Foll said in a radio interview that French forces in Libya were there to “ensure that France is present everywhere in the fight against terrorism.”

The French newspaper Le Monde first reported the presence of the special forces in February, claiming that several thousand French troops were engaged in “clandestine operations” against the Islamic State. It also reported that a November airstrike that killed Abu Nabil al-Anbari, believed to be the top Islamic State figure in Libya, was “initiated by Paris.”

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SOURCE: James McAuley 
The Washington Post