BENGHAZI, Libya: French military advisers have been helping coordinate Libyan forces fighting Islamic State insurgents in the eastern city of Benghazi, a senior Libyan military commander said on Thursday.
“The French military group in Benghazi are just military advisers who provide consultations to the Libyan National Army in its battle against terrorism, but they are not fighting with our Libyan forces,” special forces commander Wanis Bukhamada told Reuters. There was no immediate French comment.
The French newspaper Le Monde reported on Wednesday that French special forces and intelligence commandos were engaged in “a secret war” against Islamic State in anarchy-ridden Libya in conjunction with the United States and Britain. France’s Defence Ministry declined comment on the report.
Libyan military forces in Benghazi are under the command of General Khalifa Haftar and loyal to the North African country’s government based in the eastern city of al-Bayda. A rival armed faction took over the capital Tripoli in the far west in 2014 and set up its own self-declared government.
Haftar’s forces have been advancing against Islamic State in Benghazi, taking back neighborhoods that had been under militant control for months.
Western leaders have been looking at ways to stop the spread of Islamic State in Libya, where militants have exploited a breakdown of state order since the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi to seize control of some towns.
Last Friday a U.S. air strike targeted Islamist militants in the western Libyan city of Sabratha, killing more than 40.