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The New Arab

Libya militias urge fight against French 'crusaders'

Troops loyal to the unity government are battling to recapture Sirte from IS [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 July, 2016

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Armed groups have urged Libyans to mobilise against French and other foreign troops deployed in the country, denouncing their presence as a "crusader's invasion".

Armed groups including Islamists have urged Libyans to mobilise against French and other foreign troops deployed in the country, denouncing their presence as a "blatant aggression".

The call by militias in the second city of Benghazi came after French President Francois Hollande confirmed on Wednesday that his country has soldiers in Libya.

The armed groups, known as the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, urged Libyans to rise up against the deployment of foreign troops in the chaos-wracked country.

"We call on all the Libyan people to mobilise and defend their religion... and expel" all foreign troops from Libya, a statement said.

The French military presence in Libya is tantamount to a "crusader's invasion", it added.

Hollande made the announcement after three French troops were killed in Libya during a mission to gather intelligence.

His remarks sparked anti-French protests in several Libyan cities, while the UN-backed Government of National Accord [GNA] said the presence of foreign troops was a "violation" of Libya's sovereignty.

     
      Hollande's remarks sparked anti-French protests [Getty]

Benghazi military commander Mohammad al-Manfour said that French troops along with US and British soldiers are in Libya to "monitor" Islamic State group [IS] militants.

"There numbers are around 20 to 25. They are have been gathering intelligence on the movements of IS, the weapon supplies and supply lines," Manfour told The New Arab.

"Our communication with them is limited to intelligence, they are not taking part the fighting on the ground or in air strikes."

IS seized the Libyan coastal city of Sirte in June last year, raising fears that it is establishing a new stronghold on Europe's doorstep.

The Pentagon said in May that it had a "small presence" in Libya tasked with trying to identify which groups might be able to assist the United States in its mission to combat IS.

British media reported in May that British special forces had taken part in combat missions against IS in the country's northeast.

Troops loyal to the unity government are battling to recapture Sirte from IS.

Benghazi meanwhile has seen bloody battles for more than two years between armed groups, including jihadists, and forces loyal to the internationally recognised parliament, which has yet to endorse the GNA.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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