French Special Forces carry out strike in Libya - paper

French Special Forces units have been deployed in a remote desert area in south-western Libya, where they have allegedly carried out a raid against Al Qaeda militants or arms smugglers, the Algerian El Khabar newspaper said on Thursday.

The newspaper quoted Algerian military sources as saying French unmanned aerial vehicles and warplanes had been searching for several days for a group of Special Forces soldiers lost in the desert. France reportedly requested Algeria to provide its air space for French planes to ease the search, but the request was not satisfied, the paper said.

The lost French soldiers were later found and evacuated, it said.

El Khabar has suggested that the units might have been involved in a special operation against forces loyal to embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

France was one of the main advocates of the military operation against Gaddafi, which started in Libya in mid-March after being approved by the UN Security Council. The French were also the first to recognize the rebel Transitional National Council as Libya's only legitimate government.

The UN resolution, adopted on March 17, has imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians from Gaddafi's forces, but did not sanction a ground operation in the North African country. Mission command shifted from the United States to NATO on March 27.

[Source: RIA Novosti, Cairo, 07Apr11]

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