Egypt has used intelligence supplied by the French military to target and “kill civilians” suspected of smuggling, a report on Sunday by investigative Web site Disclose said, based on leaked documents.
French opposition deputies immediately called for a parliamentary committee to be set up to investigate the affair, while French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly ordered her own investigation.
“Sirli,” the name of the mission between the two countries, was designed to provide intelligence on the jihadist threat along Egypt’s western border with Libya, Disclose said.
“In principle, the mission... consisted of searching the Western Desert to find possible terrorist threats coming from Libya,” using a light aircraft designed for surveillance and reconnaissance, it said.
“But very quickly, the [French] members of the team understand that the intelligence supplied to the Egyptians are used to kill civilians suspected of contraband,” the Web site wrote.
French military staff regularly notified their superiors of the abuse of the information, it added.
Disclose based its report on hundreds of classified documents on the operation that were leaked to it.
According to those documents, the French military was implicated in at least 19 airstrikes against civilians from 2016 to 2018.
Operation Sirli began in February 2016 during the administration of then-French president Francois Hollande.
It continued despite the reservations expressed by the French military intelligence and the air force about the way Egypt was using the intelligence, Disclose said.
One such note was addressed to Parly on Jan. 22, 2019, before French President Emmanuel Macron’s official visit to Egypt.
The French military was nevertheless still deployed in the Egypt, Disclose reported.
Neither the French presidency nor any of the arms of the military responded to an approach from the journalists who carried out the investigation.
Within hours of the story’s publication, a statement from the French Ministry of Defense confirmed that the two countries had arrangements in the field of intelligence and counterterrorism.
However, for security reasons, they were not prepared to say any more on the matter.
The statement added that Parly had asked for an investigation to be launched into the information revealed by Disclose.
The left-wing opposition France Unbowed party issued a statement calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the allegations.
The party called for French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, who served as defense minister during the Hollande presidency, to come before parliament to explain what was going on.
Although France has expressed a desire to refocus its arms exports on Europe, Egypt remains one of its main clients.
Its sales there increased considerably when Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2014. Since then, Egypt has bought France’s Rafale fighter aircraft, a frigate, four corvettes and two Mistral helicopter-carriers.
In December last year, Macron awarded al-Sisi the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, the highest award that France has to offer, provoking outrage from activists who have criticized his human rights record.
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