The French Defense Ministry says three of its soldiers have been killed in Libya while on a mission; the first official confirmation that France has ground forces in the North African country.
“Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian regrets the loss of three French officers who died while on mission in Libya,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday without giving more details about the conditions of their deaths.
The statement added that Le Drian praised the “courage and devotion” of the soldiers and expressed his sympathy and condolences to their families.
France had previously said that its planes were involved in reconnaissance flights in areas controlled by Daesh militants. This, however, was the first time Paris confirmed that it had special forces in Libya.
Libya has been scene of increasing violence since 2011, when military intervention by NATO followed the uprising that led to the toppling and killing of longtime dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
Oil-rich Libya had had two rival administrations since mid-2014, when militants overran the capital, Tripoli, and forced the parliament to flee to the country’s remote east.
The two governments achieved a consensus on forming the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) last December, after months of UN-brokered talks to restore order to the country.
However, the GNA has had difficulty taking over as fighting continues among a plethora of militia groups in the country.
Daesh, which is mainly active in Syria and Iraq, has taken advantage of the political chaos in Libya to increase its presence there.