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Western troops confirmed to be in Libya 'monitoring situation'

Libyan government troops in Sirte [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 July, 2016

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A commander from Libya's rival eastern military force explains the presence of French, British and American troops a day after Tripoli condemned Paris for 'sovereignty violations'.

French, British and American soldiers in Libya are there to "monitor" Islamic State group militants, a military commander from the UN-backed government's Tobruk-based eastern rival said Thursday.  

"French, American and British soldiers are in the Benina base" near Benghazi, air force chief Saqr al-Jaroushi told AFP.

He said around 20 soldiers at the base were charged with "monitoring the movements of ISIS extremists and how they store ammunition," using another acronym for the IS group.

"There are no (foreign) pilots fighting in the place of our pilots and fighters," he claimed.

Joroushi added that other foreign military personnel were being tasked with similar operations across Libya, including in the capital Tripoli, Misrata and Tobruk in the country's east.

The military faction that Jaroushi belongs to, which is commanded by General Khalifa Haftar and Tobruk's House of Representatives, is not recognised by the US, France or Britain.

His remarks come a day after the internationally endorsed Government of National Accord in Tripoli criticised the presence of French troops in the war-torn country, as President Francois Hollande confirmed France has soldiers there after three had died in a helicopter crash.

Video: Libyan's protest against French involvement [AFP]

The soldiers were reportedly carrying out a reconnaissance mission alongside Haftar's troops.

The GNA took to Facebook to condemn the French cooperation with Haftar's forces as a "violation" of Libyan sovereignty. 

In May, the Pentagon confirmed that the US has a "small presence" in the North African nation, who are tasked with trying to identify groups that may be able to assist the US in combatting IS.

British media also reported in May that UK special forces had participated in anti-IS missions in Libya's northeast.

Libyan government loyalists have been locked in fierce clashes with the IS group for two months as they attempt to seize the militants' Mediterranean stronghold of Sirte

Libyan government loyalists have been locked in fierce clashes with the IS group for two months as they attempt to seize the militants' Mediterranean stronghold of Sirte.

On Thursday, the troops claimed they had secured "advances... on two fronts" in the coastal city, after pounding extremist positions with aerial and heavy artillery raids.

On the same day, 22 pro-government troops were killed and a further 175 wounded, a Misrata hospital official said.

A total of 280 troops have been killed and 1,500 have been injured since the drive to recapture for Sirte began in May.

Victory against the IS group in the city would provide a huge boost to Libya's UN-backed government in Tripoli, who have struggled to assert their control over the country.

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