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Three French officers killed in Libyan helicopter crash

France has lost a helicopter and three intelligence officers in Libya [File photo: Getty]

Date of publication: 20 July, 2016

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Libya's on-going war has cost the lives of three French officers, after their helicopter went down during an intelligence mission.
Three French soldiers in Libya have been killed in a "helicopter accident" after carrying out "dangerous intelligence operations" in the country, President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, there were reports that the helicopter was downed by "Islamist militias", possibly Islamic State group fighters.

The French president said the pilots died on an intelligence gathering exercise and that Libya was experiencing "dangerous instability" and French intervention was necessary.

"It's only a few hundred kilometres from Europe's shores. And at the moment we're carrying out dangerous intelligence operations," he said.

"Three of our soldiers who were, in fact, involved in these operations have lost their lives in a helicopter accident."

France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the three officers "died while on mission in Libya" and praised their "courage and devotion". He did not confirm whether the helicopter was shot down or malfunctioned.

France has confirmed that it is carrying out reconnaissance flights over Libya, but did not confirm reports about troops being in the North African state, despite French media reports.

Paris has become alarmed by a rise in the number of extremist militias in Libya's ongoing internal war, particularly the Islamic State group which has conquered the city of Sirte on the Mediterranean Sea.

The confirmation of the French deaths fits with previous statements from the government that Paris was gathering intelligence in Libya.

Last month, the defence minister said that France had French intelligence working in Libya "for some time".

"We need to see what's going on," Le Drian said at the time, but ruled out the need for French boots on the ground.

It comes after Le Drian said that the French air force was carrying out daily air strikes on IS positions in Iraq.

He said that by striking militants in Iraq "every day" they could better ensure the safety of French citizens back home.

France has been hit by a wave of attacks by IS and al-Qaeda-inspired killers.

Last week, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a truck into a crowd in Nice, South France, killing 84 people.

IS claimed that the attack was the work of one of its "soldiers", although there is no proof he was acting on behalf of IS.

France has called up reservists to boost security with President Hollande saying these men and women could make up a new National Guard for the country.

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