Unity government condemns French military presence in Libya

Published July 21st, 2016 - 05:29 GMT
Libyan protesters hold banners and placards during a demonstration in the capital, Tripoli, to protest the French military intervention in the North African country, July 20, 2016. (AFP/File)
Libyan protesters hold banners and placards during a demonstration in the capital, Tripoli, to protest the French military intervention in the North African country, July 20, 2016. (AFP/File)

The revelation came on Wednesday, when the French Defense Ministry confirmed the death of three of its soldiers who it said were on a mission in Libya. The French soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in Magrun, south of the Libyan coastal city of Benghazi.

Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) slammed the presence of the French troops in Libya as a "violation" of the country's sovereignty on the same day.

The GNA said in a statement that it would welcome "any help given to us by friendly nations in the fight against Daesh," however, any assistance given "should be based on a request (by the Libyan unity government) or in coordination" with it.

France had previously said its planes were involved in reconnaissance flights in areas controlled by Daesh militants in Libya but it was the first time it was confirming the presence of special forces on the ground in the country.

Meanwhile, the confirmation prompted hundreds of people to take to the streets in several cities across Libya to protest the French military presence in their country. The demonstrations were held mainly in the capital, Tripoli, and Misrata, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of the capital.

The protesters waved flags and held up placards reading "Get your hands off Libya," and "No French intervention."

Libya has been the scene of violence since 2011, when an uprising coupled with NATO military intervention led to the toppling and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The country had had two rival administrations since mid-2014, when militants overran Tripoli and forced the parliament to flee to the country's remote east.

The two governments achieved a consensus on forming the GNA last December after months of United Nations (UN)-brokered talks to restore order to the country.

However, the GNA has had difficulty taking over as fighting continues among a plethora of militia groups in the country.

Daesh, which is mainly active in Syria and Iraq, has taken advantage of the political chaos in Libya to increase its presence there.

On Tuesday, the UN warned that Daesh may set up new cells in Libya and North Africa as Libyan forces are advancing further against the group in the Libyan city of Sirte, its major stronghold in the region.


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