UK sends special forces on secret Libya mission against IS

Author : Mircea Birca | Monday, February 29, 2016
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News
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UK special forces are said to be working alongside their US counterparts in the city of Misrata to stop the jihadists’ progress in the lawless land across the sea from Italy.

Even as diplomats in Washington, London and European capitals push for the formation of a unity government in Libya, the US military has begun “giving tactical training” to selected local militias, Western officials, US congressional aides and sources in Libya have revealed.

The British government has refused to comment on whether it also has special forces soldiers in Libya.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron gave enthusiastic backing to the armed uprising five years ago that unseated Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

But Western officials said a “small number” of British troops were present on a low-key mission, confirmed by sources in the city, who said they were “very much in the background”.

Western efforts in Libya have ostensibly been centred on finding a political solution to the country’s civil war that would unite rival factions under a single national government.

But, as the peace talks stall, with hardliners from rival political factions sabotaging the voting intended to create a new national sovereign leadership, Western powers are struggling to find a viable solution for tackling Islamic State.

Some reports say the terrorist group now has up to 5000 fighters in Gaddafi’s home city, Sirte, on the Mediterranean coast.

Under a plan disclosed late last year, Britain was to offer the new Libyan government 1000 troops as part of a 5000-strong combined package with Italy, the former colonial power. The two countries would train and equip Libyan forces but would not fight.

However, with many Libyans reluctant to have foreign soldiers on their soil, the troops are likely to be sent only if they have a formal invitation from a properly constituted and publicly accepted new Libyan government.

With that still looking like a distant prospect, Western capitals are considering more immediate options to quell Islamic State.

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