Following reports that a number of French troops were in Libya, unknown to the authorities, a broad coalition of militias based in Benghazi, in eastern Libya, have called on Libyans to rally to drive foreign troops, including the French, out of the country.
Benghazi’s Shura Council of revolutionaries in a statement on Friday called on Libyans to “expel” French soldiers and those of “all countries involved in the war” in the north African nation.
This military presence is a “blatant aggression” and “invasion of the Crusaders,” the coalition fighting forces of General Haftar in Benghazi denounced. Benghazi is the second largest city located a 1000 km east of Tripoli.
Dozens of people gathered on Friday night in Tripoli to express their displeasure. The protesters gathered in front of the naval base where they called on the authorities to boycott French companies, AFP reports.
Paris acknowledged last Wednesday that three French soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in Libya, where they were conducting an intelligence mission in the east of the country with forces allied to the controversial General Khalifa Haftar.
The presence of the French has been denounced as a “violation of the territory” by the Government of National Unity (GNA), recognized by the international community and opposed by General Haftar and authorities in the east.
The head of the aviation forces loyal to competing authorities based in eastern Libya had said Thursday that French soldiers, British and Americans were in Libya to “monitor” the Islamic State insurgents. There are some 20 soldiers dedicated to “monitor IS activities” General Saqr al-Jarouchi confirmed.
The IS had taken advantage of the chaos in which Libya was plunged since the fall of Muammar al Gaddafi to seize Sirte in June 2015. Gaddafi was ousted by French forces after a popular uprising in the north African country.